Using a Windows 10 computer as a media player

UPDATE 19-10-7: Due to cost the Win10PC was put into an old obsolete chassis and parked in a corner of the room so it can be used when needed but it will not sit on my desk and will hardly ever be used. This was accomplished using an identical spare G-E350 WIN8 mainboard and the boot disk removed from the Mini-ITX chassis and it works fine. The Mini-ITX chassis was then set up with Lubuntu using the 500 GB HDD that was in it for a data disk for Win10PC.  x11vnc has been installed to enable remote control for maintenance purposes and with Kodi it works a lot better than when it was running Windows 10.

UPDATE 19-10-6: Whilst this computer will do for now I am looking at replacing it when I have the resources with a new Raspberry Pi (the new RPI 4B has a significant performance improvement over the 3B that I already have) or NUC running Linux just because it is getting a bit long in the tooth with performance issues, but in reality most of these issues are related to Windows 10’s excessive resource demands on it. The other option being to put the Windows 10 computer into another chassis and release this chassis for the spare board of the same type and run that on Linux so I will consider the options for that.

UPDATE 19-10-3: After the heap finally managed to update itself to Windows 10 release 1903 (a whole drama and story in itself, which has taken months of failing to install the update, and me deciding I just could not be bothered troubleshooting, then finally it managed to install itself successfully last night), Kodi started having playback problems only with videos, every few seconds the audio would drop out momentarily. The solution I found that worked was to go into Settings, Player Settings, Videos, change the rendering method to DXVA and turn off DXVA hardware acceleration.

Back in December 2014 I got an Antec Mini-ITX chassis to use with a Gigabyte GA-E350 WIN8 board that I had purchased. I actually had two of these boards (the other one is stored as a spare). Given it’s almost five years I’ll elaborate that I originally got these boards, which were very cheap since they were designed for low power compact computers needing a power supply of less than 50 watts and have an integrated AMD E350 CPU. These photos were taken at the time I built the system and are missing from the article that is on the blog and I need to put them back in it sometime.

The bare chassis looking through the grille on one side which is for cooling, through the I/O plate on the back.
 The partly assembled system. The board is installed and screwed in place and the internal cables (mainly front panel USB / switch / LED) are just loose waiting to be plugged into the board. You certainly need the low profile cooler on this board because a full size one would have trouble fitting inside.
 The system assembled and running, with the display showing a setup screen. The extra cables that weren’t in the previous picture are for the hard drives.
 On the back of the chassis under a blank panel is the mounting plate for the 2.5″ hard disks (there is room for two of them). You can see one is installed here with the power cable hanging loose in the 2nd mounting position. Behind the HDD is the bottom of the motherboard. The mounting plate is detachable because the disks sit on the inside of it and there are insulating pieces supplied to prevent the HDDs from shorting out on the metal mount plate.
Looking inside the complete system installing Windows. The cables have been tied back in place ready for the lid to be put on. The power input cable, which is for 19VDC from an external power supply that is supplied with the system, can be seen upper right. There is a small power supply board inside the chassis that generates the usual voltages (+/-12V +/-5V +3.3V etc) at up to 60 watts for the system with the usual ATX power connector.
Anyway if you followed this blog you’d know that this system has ended up as my one and only Windows computer and now has 10 Home running on it, and until recently was hardly ever used. But now I want to get some use out of it so I’ve been setting it up as a media player computer for bedside use, which means mostly playing music or playing videos with the screen turned off. The main issue with an older system like this one is the CPU won’t have the codecs built in for playing a lot of video which means it can’t handle the higher resolution or high bit rate videos well, since video playback on most operating system these days depends on the CPU doing hardware decoding, a key reason why I upgraded a Sandy Bridge system last year because it had trouble playing back WEBM videos. In this case for the use this system is being put to, that isn’t a problem, and Youtube videos that stutter can be changed to a lower bit rate in the browser.
So what software do we want to use compared to what we can use in Linux? Kodi is available on Windows and it worked fine this time. I had trouble with it on a previous Windows installation where there was no sound. Windows Media Player has been out of Windows for so long that I have almost forgotten what it was like, and the alternative app built into 10 is nowhere near as good as Kodi. The other main application needed is a sync tool to sync the video and music libraries from another computer. Since I use NFS for my day to day networking stuff in Linux and MS doesn’t make their NFS networking stuff available to Home Editions I had to set up a Samba share on the mediapc and network using the built in SMB/CIFS support for Windows. Karen’s Replicator is the ideal program for syncing. I used to use this to back up my Windows computers back in the day and it does everything needed to get a full mirror that also replicates deletions on the source.