Zed’s DVD Player Case Mod DVR

By Guest Contributor: bznotins

I have wanted a Tivo for quite some time. But inhibiting
my purchase was my general disdain for subscription fees and I didn't want to
sign-up for yet another monthly bill on top of (what I deem to be) my seemingly
unending list of monthly fees I already deal with (cell phone, cable, DSL, etc,
etc).

A secondary concern that was preventing me from buying a Tivo
was that I'm a bit picky about my home theatre setup and wasn't terribly enthusiastic about the idea of a totally dissimilar box sullying my current aesthetically homogenous Pioneer Receiver/DVD setup.

I'd heard that a Tivo is essentially just a low-end PC with
custom software, so I got to thinking maybe I could build one myself. Further
to that, I had read online that people have built PCs into everything; coffee
tables
, beer kegs,
and even Star Destroyers.
So I thought, "why not build a custom Tivo into an old (gutted) Pioneer
DVD player"?

By using software like SageTV
or Beyond TV
I could avoid the monthly subscription fees, so all the costs incurred would
be up-front. "Not a bad idea!", I thought.

This was about 3 or 4 months ago. This weekend, I have finally
completed my journey, having spent more time and money than I planned, but I
still feel satisfied that I was successful in my goals and I'm not saddled with
another subscription fee.

It looks just like a regular DVD player in my home theatre setup! (I
had to move the "real" DVD player to the cabinet below.)

Following is the detailed account of my journey from case-modding
neophyte to case-modder extraordinaire! (Well, maybe "extraordinaire"
is exaggerating a bit. More than a bit. OK, a lot.)

First a few clarifications:

1. To me "TiVo" = "DVR". "TiVo"
includes "UltimateTV, ReplayTV, etc". I realize they are not synonymous
by the strictest definition, but go with me here.

2. I know you can buy a lifetime subscription to Tivo. In my
case, it probably would have been cheaper than what I ended up doing, but I
didn't plan on spending as much as I did (at first) and I didn't like the lifetime
subscription being unit-specific instead of person-specific. Go with me here,
as well. I'll talk about this more at the end.

3. 3 to 4 months seems like a long time for something like this
(and it is) but keep in mind I was ordering things off the internet and I generally
only did work on weekends so the combination of the two really stretched things
out.

4. I'm cheap. VERY cheap. In this project, being cheap might
have actually cost me more money than required because in the interest of saving
money, I made some purchases that were a bit misguided and ended-up costing
myself more in the end.





Goal Setting

OK, my first step was to set goals for the project. What did
I want from this? At the end of the day, what "product" did I expect
to have? My goals were as follows:

Design and build a DVR with the following attributes:

  • Less expensive than a similarly-configured Tivo plus lifetime
    subscription fee
  • Functionality matching (or better) than a Tivo
  • When looking at the custom DVR from the front, top, or sides,
    be unable to differentiate it from a "normal" Pioneer DVD player
  • Ability to wirelessly transfer shows to my primary home PC
    for burning to DVD (and viewing while on the road or in other home DVD players)
  • Basic PC functions (surfing the web, email)
  • An additional platform from which to operate a webcam and
    look-in on my "family" (cats) when away from home

For reference sake, my current home-theatre setup consists of
a Pioneer
VSX-D509S
receiver and a DV-525
DVD player. That should give you an idea of the "look" I was going
for.

I got on eBay and was surprised to find that not only were there
a half-dozen auctions for non-functioning (cheap) Pioneer DVD players, but many
of them looked like they would match what I currently owned! I would have
gone with a DVD player exactly like the one I currently own, but if you look
at the link I included you'll see that in my particular model, the DVD drive
tray sits low in the case. Knowing that space was going to be a problem when
building my rig, I decided to go with an "older" model, the DV-333,
which has its DVD drive/slot mounted much higher. That would allow the DVD-ROM
to extend back into the case and hopefully sit above the motherboard and RAM.

So I ordered this particular DVD player off eBay. $0.99 cents
(I was the only bidder) plus $13.75 shipping. Darn those expensive shipping
charges!

It took a few days for the box to arrive. Upon receipt, I promptly
gutted the interior -- but in a fairly careful fashion so that I didn't destroy
any components. I wasn't sure what pieces I would need to re-use when building
my DVR so I was careful to keep EVERYTHING. And I'm glad I did, which I'll elaborate
on later.

I was happy to see that once gutted, the box was quite "open".
There weren't too many custom metal protrusions from the case that would inhibit
efficient placement of PC parts. There were some metal "indentations"
reducing the amount of vertical space that I would have to work with, but I
thought they were acceptable and could be accommodated.

So know that I knew the basic interior dimensions that I had
to work with, I started shopping for components. I knew that I would probably
be most restricted in the vertical sense, especially when it came to expansion
cards. I was either going to have to deal with risers
or limit myself to exclusively half-height cards.

Motherboard and CPU

I live in Houston, and I'm fortunate to have a Fry's
in town. They have ridiculously good deals on extremely low-end CPU/mobo combos.
I waited for the right deal and eventually went for a $60 combo. It contained
an
OEM AMD XP 2200+
CPU and an ECS
K7VTA3 v.6
mobo.

TV Tuner Card

I wanted hardware encoding. That would result in fewer (or no)
dropped frames. At first I thought I was going to get a Hauppauge
PVR-250
but it is a full-height card and would have required the purchase
of a PCI riser as well. But during my research (thanks Build Your Own PVR.com)
I found that ATi had a little-known OEM hardware encoder for WinXP MCE that
just happened to be cheap (yes!) and half-height PCI (yes!). It is called the
"eHome Wonder" and
can be had for $73
at NewEgg
(compared to $100+ for a DVR-250 plus PCI riser). I opted for
the version with the FM tuner not because I really wanted radio functionality
(I don't) but because NewEgg's descriptions led me to believe the TV hardware
on the two were different. I don't know if that's the case or not, but I chose
the safe-side in this case.





Parts List Continued...

Video Card

I wanted a cheap, half-height AGP card with TV-Out. I'd heard
ATi's TV-outs were better than nVidia's, but I have nothing to prove that one
way or the other. I wasn't planning on doing any 3D gaming, but did want DX8
compatability for various 3D acceleration options (translucency, etc) on the
desktop. I found this
yum-cha 9200SE card
, that was half-height, as well as having three video-outs
(VGA, DVI, SVideo). If you look at the link, you can see that the VGA out is
actually via a cable so that all three outputs could be maintained/used in spite
of the card only being half-height. $44 at NewEgg (although it is $50 now).

Hard Drive

All I wanted here was a big drive, cheap. With an 8MB buffer.
By taking advantage of a low no-rebate Fry's price and a price-matching/rebate
combination opportunity
at Circuit City, I managed to get a 120GB 8MB Western
Digital drive for $1.50 after tax and rebate. This is the one deal that I got
that probably can't be easily replicated.

RAM

In this regard, I didn't live-up to my "cheap" nature.
I was planning on getting only 256MB of RAM, but because I am a firm believer
in "you can never have too much RAM", I went with 512MB (one stick
of Kingston
ValueRam
). $64.72 at OfficeMax.

DVD/CD-ROM

I had originally intended on just using a spare 5.25" CD-RW
drive I had laying around. But after mapping out a few measurements, I realized
that this just was not going to happen. Regular 5.25" drives are just too
large in both depth and height to fit over the motherboard components that it
would need to. So I settled on a slimline (laptop) DVD-ROM concept. I found
one (Toshiba
SD-C2502
) on eBay for $20, shipped. I also bought an adapter to convert
from slimline to IDE for another $19. Little did I know that I bought the wrong
one (60 pin instead of 40 pin)! So there was my first wasted expenditure. I
eventually found the right
adapter
on PCAlchemy.com for a better
price than what I saw on eBay ($17.45, shipped). PCAlchemy.com
is a nice little store I found. More of a boutique website, it caters to the
HTPC crowd. Dan would probably say, "Recommended".

WiFi

WiFi was a requirement for me. I did not want to run cable from
my DVR to my primary PC in another room. I have a Netgear
WGR614v4
router, so I decided to stick with the same brand (for compatability's
sake) and get a PCI 802.11g adapter, the Netgear
WG311
. I could have gone for a USB adapter, but an internal solution was
more elegant and congruent with my aesthetic goal. If I didn't already have
a router, I would have considered a "Super-G" WiFi solution for faster
file transfers, but I didn't want to buy a new router so I stuck with the vanilla
802.11g setup.

Power Supply

My first thought was to use a spare ATX PSU I had laying around.
I couldn't have been more misguided. Way too big for the case. So I did some
measurements and found that the micro-ATX form factor would probably work well.
I found a cheapo unit for $22, shipped at NewEgg. Upon receipt, I found that
either I or NewEgg had confused the width and depth dimensions and it didn't
actually fit the way I needed it to. Argh. Another wasted purchase. So I found
that I was going to have to spend the big bucks and get a FlexATX PSU. I like
Fortron PSUs (their ATX ones have been quiet and reliable for me in other computers)
so I settled on the Fortron
FlexATX FSP200-PLA
unit. I originally ordered from Axiontech.com but their
"24-hour" availability on their website turned out to be three weeks
with no contact from them, so I canceled the order. I ended up getting it from
Power-On.com for $54.94,
shipped. More to come on this later in the article -- this component turned
out to be the biggest hurdle to overcome in my DVR odyssey!

Heat Sink, Fans

To make a long story short, I needed a heat sink that I could
blow at from the side instead of from the top, because of limited vertical space
in the box. I went with the Zalman
CNPS3100
. The included 92mm fan was too big to sit vertically in the case,
so instead I used it as a case fan sitting horizonally. I then purchased a Vantec
Stealth 60mm fan
at Fry's (~$10) to use on the heat sink. I also ended up
purchasing a Zalman
ZM-OP1 slim 80mm fan
from excaliberpc.com
for use on the PSU (more on that later).



Parts List Continued...

Cables, LEDs

Given the unique positioning of the PSU, I had to buy an extension
cable for the main power connector. Also purchased were a Y-adapter for the
audio-out (to connect to the RCA jacks of my receiver), a handful of S-Video
cables (to route the DVR's TV-out to the receiver and then on to the TV), a
couple LEDs (for power and HDD activity), and various wires for the power switch
and aforementioned LEDs.

Infrared Remote Receiver

One thing I didn't know existed was the ability to control a
computer with your own Home Theatre remote, given you can construct or find
the appropriate remote receiver. It took a lot of searching, but I finally found
a USB IR Receiver (most are serial-based and annoying) that could be purchased
instead of having to build one from scratch. It's called an "IgorPlug USB",
and here's the link if you need it: http://www.alldiy.info/usb.html. This individual (in Singapore) charges
a very reasonable price of USD28, and that includes shipping all the way to
the USA! He also shipped the same day I ordered it, and it took only 7
business days to get here. Not too shabby!

I plan on using this IR Receiver with Girder
to control my DVR and get limit the need for a keyboard and mouse that I've
been using up to this point. Someone has put together a set of Girder commands
for SageTV, and they can be found here.

Tools

I had to buy a Dremel
for this project. I was pretty happy with the deal I got ($43.27 incl tax and
accessories at Lowe's).
I also spent a few more bucks on some grinding accessories. Given that I was
going to have to do some custom wiring, I also bought a soldering iron and some
solder on eBay.

Operating System and DVR Software

I chose WinXP Pro. I don't know much about Linux, and what I
do know is that it is rife with hardware compatibility issues and requires endless
tweaking. Not for me. Plus WinXP would network with my main PC and laptop much
more seamlessly. And lastly, Remote
Desktop
would allow me to log-in to my DVR from anywhere on the web, thus
providing the ability to manage my recordings from abroad.

For DVR Software, I think the two best options for Windows are
Beyond TV
and SageTV. There are certain features I like
about Beyond TV (scheduling recording over the web) and others I like about
SageTV (server/streaming to other PCs on a network). But at the end of the day,
SageTV won out because it supports the eHome Wonder, while Beyond TV does not.
Pretty simple decision, eh?




The Case Modding Begins...

After purchasing many of the components and laying them out
in the case, I realized that I was about 5-10mm short in vertical space required
to fit the mobo and video card. So the small metal "risers" in the
case had to go. It was then that I would lose my Dremel-virginity...


(Before modding)



During Modding -- wear eye protection!


After Modding -- note all the holes and metal "dust" in the case
-- be sure to remove this!


This shows how much vertical space I made available by cutting out the "risers"

Note that I used fiberglass-reinforced
cutting wheels
for this job. They're much better than the standard cutting
wheels. A couple of lessons learned here:

  • Don't use your fingers to pull off pieces of metal immediately
    after cutting (the burns are healing, nicely, thank-you)
  • Watch out for your thumbs -- Dremels can cut them too!
  • While cutting outside is better (metal dust isn't good to
    be inside), be sure to not lock yourself out on your 3rd-floor balcony in
    the middle of June in Houston

One thing I should note is that I had some Armor-All
car-wash wipes
sitting around and they worked great for cleaning the case
after each cutting session. Metal shavings and "dust" would wreak
havoc in a computer and getting it all out was a must. Also be sure to grind-off
all the "burrs" created as a result of cutting metal with the Dremel.

Please forgive the lack of photos between this point and the
almost-finished product. I left my digicam in another city and was therefore
unable to take pictures. But the shots of the final assembly give a pretty good
idea of how everything went together.



Layout of the Components

Before I started drilling holes (other than just getting rid
of obstructions) I put all the components in the case in an attempt to see where
they would "fit". As it turns out, I had JUST enough room (1-2mm to
spare) to fit the HDD, mobo, and PSU in on the horizonal axis. The PSU would
have to sit on top of the three last PCI slots, but that still left two open
for my TV Tuner and WiFi card, which was necessary. As you can see in the picture
below, the HDD is right against the PS2 ports. It appears that if I mounted
it above the PS2 ports I could free-up some additional space, but then I would
not be able to screw the HDD into the interior side of the case and would have
to drill holes in the exterior, which was incongruent with my goals.


This looks very crowded -- and it is!

Working from the left of the picture,
you can see the FlexATX PSU (which is resting on the last three PCI slots),
then the WiFi card, then the ATi eHome Wonder, and then the AGP video card.
In the bottom middle of the photo, you see the slimline DVD ROM, which is mounted
on the old plastic bracket that the case's DVD drive was supported by.
In the middle-right of the frame is the CPU heatsink and fan. Finally
on the right of the frame is the HDD and the 92mm case fan.

Mounting The Motherboard and CPU

After cutting away the metal "risers" in the case,
it was left with a mostly uniform flat surface on which to mount the motherboard.
I experimented a while with brass standoffs but they just wouldn't sit securely
in the holes I drilled for them. So I drilled bigger holes and used plastic
standoffs. Normally I don't like plastic standoffs, but in this case they worked
out perfectly.

The CPU was mounted normally, but some of the fins on the heatsink
had to be bent to allow for the DVD-ROM to fit (note in the layout photo how
its depth intrudes on the heatsink's space. The CPU fan had to be mounted
off-center to accommodate the IDE cable plugged into the back of the drive.
To mount the CPU fan, I used some of those funny screws you mount pictures and
such with through drywall. They have those butterfly levers on the end
that (in this case) snugly grappled the heatsink fins and held the fan in place.
The fan "sucks" rather than "blows" to draw air from the
case fan through the heatsink.

See how the "butterfly clips" (I don't know what they're called)
secure the fan to the heatsink, also see how much the DVD-ROM and its associated
cables invade the space of the heatsink at the top of the photo!




Case Fan

Next was the primary case fan. I used the 92mm Zalman fan that
came with the heat sink for the CPU. It is good because it can run quietly and
it also fit perfectly in its designed position (front of the case in the corner).
I had to cut a hole in the bottom to provide allow air into the case -this hole
is blocked somewhat by one of the box's "feet", but it is just something
that couldn't be avoided. I also wired this fan to a Zalman
FanMate
that I had lying around so that I could run the fan at low RPM for
low noise.


Shot of the bottom of the case -- note how the DVD player's "foot"
impedes airflow somewhat

Mounting the Hard Drive

As luck would have it, the box had both an "inner"
and "outer" shell. Between the two was about 2-3mm of space which
provided the perfect opportunity for me to drill holes and screw-mount the drive
in standard fashion. Although only one side of the drive could be screwed-in
properly, the back of the drive rests on the case fan to provide support.

Cabling the hard drive was a bit more difficult. Regular ribbon
cables blocked too much of the airflow, so I bought some cheap round cables
from SVC.com and cut off the plastic housing
around the connectors. Yes, I now have unprotected and exposed IDE wires in
my case, but I had to take some chances for everything to fit.



I drilled holes in the side of the "inner" shell to mount the drive
-- its weight is supported by those screws and the case fan at the rear of the
drive.

Mounting the DVD-ROM

This is where keeping all the guts of the DVD player came in
handy. As it turns out, the plastic framework that housed the DVD player's primary
components was almost perfect to house the slimline DVD-ROM that I purchased.
I had to cut off the back part of the apparatus and remove some plastic tabs

that obstructed things, but all-in-all it mounted quite easily and is perfectly
well-supported. The back of the drive intrudes greatly on my heatsink, so the
copper fins of the heatsink had to be bent to provide space. The heatsink fan
also had to be mounted off-center to provide room for the DVD-ROM.


This is somewhat difficult to see, but the black plastic bracket supporting
the drive, came with the DVD player itself.

The coil of wire you see here
is the (very long) USB cable of the IR receiver. I didn't want to cut
it.

Mounting the "door" to the DVD-ROM was a problem.
As it stands right now, I have just used magnets to stick the door to the slot
of the box. This isn't terribly elegant (you have to use Windows to eject CDs
since the button is inaccessible, and the door isn't actually attached to the
drive) but it works for now. Later, I might crazy-glue the door to the front
of the DVD-ROM for a more permanent solution.


Note the two thin magnets affixed to the case -- these stick to two magnets
embedded in the plastic of the door cover. In this shot, you can see the
IR Receiver hiding behind the translucent red plastic.



The Power Supply

The plan was to mount my PSU over the last three (unused) PCI
slots over the mobo. The slots would support the weight of the PSU and
I could drill holes into the back of the case so that the PSU could be screwed-in
and secured. Installation worked exactly as planned:


The FlexATX PSU sitting on top of the three PCI slots. The 80mm slim fan was a mod I made in an effort to deal with its immense levels of heat output.

The Fortron-Source FlexATX PSU that I used was great when one
first started-up the DVR. But after the DVR had been on for a while and
things heated up, the PSU's little 40mm exhaust fan was louder than a jet engine.
The sound dominated my living room. The amount heat generated by the PSU
was also amazing (hence the need for the super-fast 40mm fan). The sound
was totally unacceptable, especially when having to account for the WAF (Wife
Acceptance Factor).

So, in an effort to quiet things down without risking heat-related
shutdowns, I modded the fan in the PSU by disconnecting its wires from the PSU
itself and powering it off the 12v/5v rail via a Zalman FanMate (to keep the
fan at a constant, slow speed). I also cut a hole (using my trusty Dremel)
in the top of the PSU and mounted a Zalman 80mm SlimFan. There's only
about 0.5mm of clearance between the top of the case and the SlimFan so it wasn't
pushing much air, but I had to get at least some air pushing into the thing.
If I start getting heat-related shutdowns I'm going to have to cut a hole in
the top of the DVR to allow for fresh air input, but that is an absolute last
resort. It would ruin my goal of keeping the top, sides, and front of
the case "virginal".

The AGP and PCI Cards

As noted before, only half-height PCI cards would fit in this
case. So that's what I bought. Each of the three cards (video, TV,
WiFi) either had its bracket cut or removed entirely. You can see below
how I cut an opening in the back of the case to allow for the video output and
cable input, but I chose to eliminate the WiFi's backplate entirely and just
drill a hole where the antenna lead protruded.

Yeah, I suck with the Dremel (check out that crooked line I cut) but no one
will see but you!!! Note how the WiFi annenta appears to stick out right
from the back of the case)

The AGP card's heatsink gets quite hot and despite the screen
saver being on almost perpetually (the screen saver powers the display down).
This has given me some concern because the heatsink of the video card is almost
right on top of the encoding chip of the eHome Wonder. I have seen some
irregularities now and again in the recordings I make and this might be the
cause.





Infrared Remote, LEDs, Mouse, Keyboard, Audio, & Power
Switch

I mounted my IR Receiver below the DVD-ROM so that its sensor
"looks" through the translucent window of the case. At the right
angle you can see it from the couch, but normally with the lights low the window
is opaque enough to conceal my alterations within.

I have one red LED (from Radio
Shack
) to indicate power, and one yellow LED (also from the Shack) for HDD
activity. Both are mounted directly beside the IR Receiver. I think
this has caused a few problems with the receiver recognizing commands from my
HT remote, but it's tolerable. When I get some time I might move the LEDs
to the other side of the window so that their emissions spill less onto the
sensor of the IR Receiver.

For a mouse and keyboard, I just use a vanilla $5 keyboard I
got at Fry's. The mouse is a funky little
Fellowes Micro Trac
that was on clearance for $5 at OfficeMax. If
I really used this DVR for PC functions, I would have invested in a wireless
keyboard and mouse, but 99% of the time I won't need the keyboard and mouse
so I didn't want to spend big bucks on them.

For audio, I just bought a splitter and ran the two-channel
stereo output of the mobo's onboard sound to my receiver. 5.1 channel
audio would be nice, but there's no need for it when my "real" DVD
player provides a better picture anyway. The two-channel audio is great
for playing MP3s on my home stereo though!!!

Every computer needs a way to turn on. And once again,
I was happy that I saved all the old guts of the DVD player because it had a
small little circuit board wired to the DVD player's power button on the front
of the case. So all I had to do was figure out which trace was power,
and which was ground, solder the appropriate wires from the power switch header
on the mobo to their respective traces, and Voila! The power switch on
the DVD case is now a fully-functional power-switch for the PC. Not too
shabby for a cludgeon like me!

Software Installation and Results

Installing WinXP Pro was as straightforward as with any other
PC. I was sure to share the DVR's HDD on my LAN so that I could plug TV
shows from it wirelessly for burning on my main home PC. I also enabled

Remote Desktop
so that I could control the DVR from another PC on my LAN
or from the internet. After using the DVR for a couple weeks, I have now
found I almost never use the DVR locally -- 99% of the time I just log into
it from either my main PC or my laptop and make changes to my recording schedule
by remote.

As noted earlier, I use SageTV.
Installation was a dream, and everything worked right from square-one.
Girder,
Trillian
, & Samurize
(to monitor temps and HDD space) are all running great too.

Lastly, I underclocked the CPU (100mhz FSB instead of 133mhz)
to help with heat. At idle (which the CPU is at 99.9% of the time) temps
hover around 45 degrees.



Go to the last page for the exciting conclusion!


Follow-Up and Goal Achievement

Overall, I am happy with the DVR. It isn't perfect (I
hoped it would be). It is still a bit loud and runs a bit hot. Burning
shows to DVD takes much longer than I had hoped (why does Nero have to re-encode
the mpeg2 files created by SageTV, anyway?). Here, I'll revisit my goals:

  • Less expensive than a similarly-configured Tivo plus lifetime
    subscription fee

    • At $600+, this project wasn't cheap. But if I
      were to do it again, I wouldn't have as many "wasted" expenses,
      and I also would have skipped some components that I use rarely -- like
      the DVD-ROM. I'll give myself a "D" here.

  • Functionality matching (or better) than a Tivo

    • Well, I've never actually used a Tivo, but AFAIK this
      does everything and more. "A".
  • When looking at the custom DVR from the front, top, or sides,
    be unable to differentiate it from a "normal" Pioneer DVD player

    • Here, I did fairly well. There are NO cuts in the
      front, top, or sides. When it is sitting in my HT shelf, the only
      way someone can tell that it has been modded is by spotting the inconspicuous
      WiFi antenna at the back of the case or by spotting the IR receiver through
      the translucent plastic at the front (but the light has to be just right
      for this). "A-".
  • Ability to wirelessly transfer shows to my primary home PC
    for burning to DVD (and viewing while on the road or in other home DVD players)

    • Success. But not as fast as I hoped. I get
      about 2MB/sec throughput on good days, but that's still pretty slow.
      "B+".
  • Basic PC functions (surfing the web, email)
    • Got it. "A".
  • An additional platform from which to operate a webcam and
    look-in on my "family" when away from home

    • I haven't bought the webcam yet, but there's no reason
      why it won't work. "A".

So, overall, I'll give myself a "B" because I am cheap
and really disappointed that I had to spend so much when I thought it would
be so inexpensive.

Lessons Learned and Plans for "Next Time"

Well, I have spent too much money already so unfortunately this
project will stop for now. But what would I change if I were to try again?
Where could I save money?

  • Go with a
    VIA Epia M10000
    -based system (review).
    I thought I was saving money by going with the cheap Fry's combo, but in
    the end not having enough physical space really limited my PSU options and
    I must have spent an extra $50 just trying to resolve all the PSU-related
    headaches. Plus, I would have avoided the $44 expenditure on the AGP
    video card. The only downside (to me) of the Epia system is that it
    only has one PCI slot, so my WiFi would have had to go external -- something
    I wanted to avoid but would be acceptable given the cost savings.

  • Go with a standard ATX PSU (with the available space made
    by using the Epia) or a quieter FlexATX PSU (like the Shuttle
    SilenX 250W PSU
    )

  • Skip the DVD-ROM and save the $30 or $40 (I only use it
    for installing software and that can be done by other means) unless you
    plan on using the DVR as a DVD player (which I don't)

  • Mount the case fan closer to the PSU instead of closer to
    the HDD. I thought the HDD would be the hotter of the two but I was
    wrong

Well, I hope you found this (LONG) article helpful. This
is my "Thank You" to Build Your Own PVR for
all the help provided during construction. Feel free to contact me at
bznotins@[what a cowboy says].com (edited to help with my spam situation - rhymes with bahoo) if
you have any questions or comments!

Zed

Rampy note: Thanks BZ for the great blow by blow of your project! You can also comment on this article in the forum or registered byopvr'ers can PM bznotins here