Hackintosh HTPC part 3

In part 2 I detailed the motherboard, processor and ram picked for the HTPC. The plan was to initially use the spare Nvidia 7300GT card and replace this dependant on space available in the final case. I had a spare Tagan 480w PSU and a midi tower case as a temporary home, and the 500Gb hard drive from the hackintosh (replaced with a new 1Tb).

The build was straightforward so I won’t dwell on that. The first choice was how to install Leopard. The 500Gb hard drive had the hackintosh install on it so I chose to boot this first and see what happened. It wasn’t much of a surprise when this started up fine as it had previously been working on an intel chipset motherboard. The only thing that didn’t work was audio, so the next choice was do I keep the install and remove unnecessary software/files or do a fresh install?

At this point I turned to my testing 2.5″ external USB drive. It has a couple of 30Gb partitions with 10.5.6 installed, and is used to test software updates before applying them to the main installation on the hackintosh. I erased the 500Gb drive and used Carbon Copy Cloner to copy one 30Gb install across. This also booted fine so there was minimal patching to do. I fixed the audio with a patched AppleHDA.kext for the ALC662 from the Insanelymac forums. The original 10.5.6 install using Boot 132 and chameleon has been covered in a previous article.

The 500Gb hard drive is 465Gb when formatted so the one partition of this size was shrunk using Disk Utility to 65Gb and a 400Gb partition created for media. I spent a lot of time getting bonjour file sharing working correctly on the original hackintosh and couldn’t be bothered to go through it all again so the HTPC was given a static IP address (I also gave the hackintosh one at the same time to simplify moving files around).

The Gigabyte motherboard doesn’t include any digital audio sockets, just a 3 pin header on the motherboard. I had an expansion slot audio output plate from a previous motherboard so this went in. It’s worth repeating the motherboard manual warning as it’s critical the digital audio plug is connected the correct way round. This is not a polarised plug so it’s easy to get it wrong and the results can be disastrous as it puts a short across a power supply rail. I’ve done this myself on a previous build and the resulting little puff of smoke would be funny if it wasn’t so serious. Fortunately the board was repairable with a bit of fine soldering and worked just a well after repair.

So far I hadn’t paid much attention to the video output. The display defaulted to 1360×768 on the Dsub analog output and using a DVI to HDMI cable gave a cropped display of very poor quality. Switching the Dsub output to 1920×1080 resulted in an unsupported mode warning on the TV. Both outputs could be used simultaneously in the same TV so I could use the DVI output to correct the analog display when the screen switched to an unsupported mode. I could also use screen sharing to recover an unsupported display mode from another Mac. This allowed me to see that there were two frequencies on the analog output when using 1920×1080. 60Hz gave an error on the TV but switching to 59.9Hz in the Display Preferences worked fine. I left the HTPC connected to the TV using the analog Dsub output at this display setting with the intention of investigating screen modes later, so this will be covered in part 4.

Plex media centre software was installed next, then the moment of truth: will my hardware play 1080p video? There are plenty of movie trailers available from the Apple web site in 1080p and these worked very well. I also found a couple of 1080p mkv files that played with no problems. The 7300gt video card may be three generations behind current but coupled with the E5200 Core 2 Duo it’s more than capable of handling the best video currently available. Since most of the content I plan to use will be 720p TV shows the system will be ticking over most of the time.

At this point I had a working HTPC/hackintosh with a 1920×1080 analog display and digital audio output for Dolby Digital or DTS through my AV receiver. Part 4 will go through setting up the TV and HTPC for optimal display setting.

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  1. February 6, 2009 at 7:15 pm

    Interested into why you use plex instead of XBMC?

    The new version works on intel macs …..

  2. basshead
    February 7, 2009 at 4:15 pm

    I found Plex first in a web search and tried it, liked it so have continued using it. When I became aware of the XBMC Mac version I compared the two and preferred Plex as it’s only developed for the Mac (better focus on the platform?) and the controls make more sense to me.

  3. Jding
    February 22, 2009 at 6:03 am

    Do you have a solution for IR remote control of plex? An HTPC is a bit of a non-starter if I can’t control it with my Harmony 550 remote.

  4. basshead
    February 23, 2009 at 4:57 am

    At the moment I’m using an RF keyboard/trackpad to control Plex. A remote is the next thing I’m adding to the media centre so I’ll add details once I have it working.

  5. rva
    June 4, 2009 at 7:47 am

    Hi,

    Great to read this, I will start, after I could get my 7300 working, to use it as media centre.

    what type of kext and changes did you have to do to get that 7300GT working?
    I have a 512Mb Asus 7300GT Silent card.

    I have difficulties to get it QE enabled and get the resolution changed having only one choice.

    Hope to read more about the remote control and what transmission hardware you will be using on hackintosh side.

    Thanks in advance.

  6. basshead
    June 6, 2009 at 4:15 pm

    I tried NVinject and NVkush in the past. With Boot132 the best method for me was a modified EFI string. You can use OSX86Tools from pcwizcomputer.com to install a custom EFI string, this is as simple as selecting from a list of supported video cards. This method was by far the simplest and works the best on my machines.

    I have a remote working perfectly on my HThackintosh, hoping to get an article on the site this weekend.

  7. TheBogieMan
    August 8, 2009 at 4:37 pm

    I have virtually the same set up as you, built it a year ago, with the exception of a 8400GT card.
    I use a Grifin AirClick as a remote, cheap as chips on ebay, and they are RF so you can tuck the box right out of the way.
    I use plex, but have tried Mediacentral as well as I have a Miglia TVMicro TV tuner, but to be honest as it’s only got RF in the quality is crap on a big screen, I might sell the wife and buy the Elgato 250 and use the composite in from my sat box, sadly no DTV in my country yet

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