Zalman HD135 HTPC Case - VFD and Software Usage

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Zalman HD135 HTPC Case
HTPC System Installation
VFD and Software Usage
The Remote, Working Under Vista and More

Fire It Up!

Upon firing the system up for the first time, the VFD comes to life and displays this until you get the software installed:

A fresh install of Windows XP Media Center Edition was performed, then the system drivers, then the Zalman drivers.  All of the Zalman drivers installed without a hitch.  The software package includes the USB drivers for the display unit and remote, MPlay software for customizing the display and remote, Media Bay media center software, and SpeedFan to assist in controlling noise. 

MPlay has plenty of customization to suit your needs and change the way the VFD works.  There are 10 different preset display modes which you can see listed in the software.  Every one of the display modes is fully customizable.  The display itself can even be customized to adjust brightness.  Here's some screens of the MPlay software and some of the different modes:



The beauty of MediaBay is it'll provide media center functionality to a PC that doesn't have Windows XP Media Center Edition installed.  MediaBay can be installed on Windows 2000 or WIndows XP (Home or Pro) and give you media center capabilities.  I chose to installed XP MCE to see if the remote would work with it, and indeed it does.  With the USB drivers installed for the display and MPlay installed the remote would launch and control Windows Media Center just fine.  I couldn't find any functionality in Windows Media Center that Media Bay doesn't provide.  Media Bay even has a few extras as it'll play flash files as well.  Here' a screen shot of Media Bay in action:

Neither Windows Media Center or MediaBay would play a DVD without a third party decoder installed such as PowerDVD.  It's obvious both WMC and MediaBay were designed to have all the media files stored locally as neither wanted to look for media files on a share.  I could get MP3s to stream, but pictures, videos, and dvds would not stream through a shared folder.  This poses a problem in my opinion as a massive storage server could be stored in another room while an HTPC could be used as the interface to those files.  This removes both heat and noise from the case.  MediaBay cannot actually 'see' a share.  The shares have to be mapped to a drive letter, which is really no big deal, but even after mapping several of my media folders MediaBay would not play any of my mpeg videos, DivX videos, or (legally) ripped DVDs.  Just for fun I threw in GeexBox to see if it would play nice with shares and if the Zalman remote would work with it.  Surprisingly GeexBox saw every single share and had absolutly no trouble navigating them.  GeexBox also played every media file I could throw at it.  It also played my (Legally) ripped DVDs.  However, the remote was not recognized and could not be used.

SpeedFan is the last app included in the Zalman software suite.  This little utility is used to monitor fan speeds, system temps, CPU load, an adjusts the fans accordingly.  SpeedFan also has the capability to raise and lower the motherboard FSB to lower thermal output during times of low load.  Pretty nifty.  Here's a few screens: