Is it possible to use a Windows PC as a remotely and locally controlled entertainment centre.

I have a 92 year old mother who lives a short distance away and who is finding it harder and harder to handle technology. Therefore I am looking for a way to assist her remotely and it occurred to me that I may be able to set up a PC as an entertainment hub with remote access. The concept I had in mind is summed up as follows but I don't know how difficult or feasible it is so I am after comment:
1. Use her standard TV (now a 42 inch Panasonic plasma) as a monitor connected to a PC via HDMI 1
2. She needs to be able to play DVD's so a PC with a built in or external DVD should handle that. All I need to do is find a player that will instantly jump into full screen mode
3. She needs to be able to watch TV but she could do that either via the native TV tuner, or preferably through HDMI 1 using a TV tuner in the PC
4. When the PC boots it need to jump straight to TV but I think that could be done by loading the TV tuner software launcher in the Start folder - does that feasible?
5. It would be really handy if there was some software I could get that would enable me to create programmed recordings of TV shows but I would hope that the tuner may even come with such software
6 I would like to be able to control the process remotely but I think I could do that effectively with Teamviewer Free for personal use
7.The second most difficult challenge would be to enable her to have access to Italian TV without having to navigate multiple menus. There are providers of boxes that will enable live TV from the internet but I need to find out if there is a way to launch straight to a channel selection menu. Again, if anyone has any experience your comment would be welcome.
8. The most difficult issue I can think of is finding some way of controlling this locally with a remote control. I did have a laptop once that came with a remote control for audio/video functions so they may still make them but I am not sure if one of those could be configured to drive this as simply as I need.

Perhaps this is the wrong forum to ask this question but I don't know where else to turn. Any help you can provide would be much appreciated.
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Rob4077Asked:
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Kyle SantosQuality AssuranceCommented:
I use Plex and it covers a lot of what you're asking for.
https://www.plex.tv/

Also, Chrome Remote Dekstop is a great app for remotely controlling a PC.
https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/chrome-remote-desktop/gbchcmhmhahfdphkhkmpfmihenigjmpp?hl=en
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Owen RubinConsultantCommented:
I agree with Kyle. I use Plex Server on a PC set on my DMZ of the network. I put NOTHING personal or important on it. I added VNC Server for remote access because I like the app Jump for iOS and Android to remote to it.

For remote viewing, make sure plex's ports are forwarded to this machine, and then use the Plex app to view all your content. Plex players run on Mac, Windiws, Linux, iOS, Android, Amazon Fire, Roku, and a few others, so you can see you content anywhere.

Happy to talk you through settings g it all up. While Plex is free, the paid version, which is fairly decent price is worth it.
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Kyle SantosQuality AssuranceCommented:
Huh!  TIL: https://www.realvnc.com/en/connect/download/vnc/
@Owen, Thanks for sharing that.  I'll try this out next time I get my home Plex server back up and running!
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Rob4077Author Commented:
Thanks Owen and Kyle, it sounds like this may be the way to go. I need to explore Plex a little more to see how simple I could make it on the front end so I don't get a call every time she needs to change a selection. I have a spare laptop that I might set up with Plex and see what I can do. Once I have it all going I will raise another question to get the added setup support you offered.

Thanks again
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Rob4077Author Commented:
Guys, I realize this is not the typical forum for this type of question so I appreciate you taking the time to share your recommendations. Still not quite sure how I can get this all managed locally by a simple remote control. Maybe I just need a remote mousepad of sorts to enable her to point and press, but if that will work and Plex is easy to use it will be great
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Kyle SantosQuality AssuranceCommented:
Do you have an Apple TV, Play Station 3, Roku type of device?
I use Roku and installed the Plex app on there.  I have a remote for the Roku that lets me navigate the movies, tv shows, music, etc.
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Rob4077Author Commented:
No I don't, but perhaps that's what I need to get. Until now all she's had is a TV and DVD to work with. Old age is playing havoc with her ability to pick up technology so I am looking for something really simply. My goal is to have as few buttons and options to choose from as possible. PersonallyI am not a Apple user, so I don't have an Apple TV, and I am not into computer games so I don't have a Play Station 3. I don't even know what a Roku device is so I need to explore those too before I progress to setting her up with them. Whatever I get for her, it needs to be ultra simple and ultra straight forward.
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Kyle SantosQuality AssuranceCommented:
A Roku would be ultra simple and straight forward.  The remote control has very few buttons and has simple buttons that open Netflix, Amazon Video and other things.  Its pretty great actually and one of my best purchases I've ever made for in home entertainment.

eg of what the Roku remote can look like
https://www.google.com/search?q=roku+remote&rlz=1C1GGRV_enUS752US754&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwip9u7rjejdAhVfFzQIHV-aCHcQ_AUIDygC&biw=1557&bih=851
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Owen RubinConsultantCommented:
Again I agree with Kyle. I have Plex on a number of devices, and by far the Roku unit is the easiest and most stable of all the device, and it has a ton of other content you can view through plug in apps.  The Amazon Fire TV comes in a very close second. If you have an Amazon Prime account, the FireTV will give you easy access to that content as well. And I agree as well that the remote is fairly simple to learn and use.

On the RealVNC, those are the clients in that link. The PC also needs VNC Server, and that is not free BTW (I forgot I bought a license for VNC Server a long while ago) I just like VNC better than Remote Desktop (RDP), which is free, built in already, and would work as well. BUT....

I misunderstood you. I thought you meant you wanted to remote connect to the PC, not “use a remote to watch TV” so sorry about that. You will not need RDP of VNC actually if remote access into the PC is not necessary. That was my misunderstanding. I use VNC to remote login to my Plex server so I can manage things without going to the PC itself. If this is not a need, then just leave out that part.

Plex SERVER on the PC, and either a second PC running Plex as a player (do not really recommend this), or better still, an Amazon Fire or Roku will work really well. I vote Roku, but I use both equally and am not disappointed with either.

Also, if you have a cable or satellite subscription, you can add apps that let the Roku or FireTV access many of those channels directly.

Let me know if  I can help you more. There are a bunch of other things I do in this area.
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Owen RubinConsultantCommented:
By the way Kyle, have a look at Jump as well for iOS and Android. It is also not free, but one of the best Remote access apps I have ever used. It handles both RDP and VNC, AND will use VPN’s as part of the connection parameters. It’s pointer is controlled by a small circle UNDER the cursor so you can see where you are pointing. It handles multiple screens well, has excellent zoom in and out capabilities, and they will let you save your connection profiles in the cloud so multiple versions of the app share profiles.

DO NOT get the app for MacOS however, I did not find that app any better than the generic VNC viewer, or Microsoft’s RDP client.

Lastly, I recommend if you use VNC server, set a high, random port for the listening port, and port forward that in your router. Hackers look for port 5900 it’s default port to be open and be a vector for hacking. While a higher port does not stop hacking, I have found an order of magnitude less attacks on my network edge PC when default connection ports are not used.  And, of course, use a strong VNC connection password, so the best they can do is beat on the login for VNC for a while. :-)

Happy to compare notes at any time.
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Kyle SantosQuality AssuranceCommented:
Thank you so much for the additional information!
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Rob4077Author Commented:
Thank you so much Owen and Kyle for the extra info.

Just to clarify, I need an easy local controller for mum to use (Roku may well work as you suggested so will look at that) as well as remote access for me to help her (RealVNC sounds good). I used to own a RealVNC license many, many years ago and was happy with it then. More recently I have used Teamviewer which is free for personal use and works really well too.

I assume the Roku unit and remote will drive Plex on the local PC as well. I notice there's a sideclick adaptor available so that may enable a single unit to control TV as well as content.

Sounds like the PC option may work well. The alternative I had been looking at was to simply get a Logitech Smart Companion to control her existing equipment plus add her Italian TV to it but this sounds far more powerful and flexible
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Owen RubinConsultantCommented:
I assume the Roku unit and remote will drive Plex on the local PC as well. I notice there's a sideclick adaptor available so that may enable a single unit to control TV as well as content.

So on your PC you run the Plex server. Your files can live on the PC or on a network drive. On the Roku is a Plex app that is a player. You will set it up and logon to it with your account, and your server will show up as a source for video, music, and pictures. The UI presents “On Deck” shows that you watch, keeps track of which episodes are next, and  keeps track of viewing so you can stop and continue later.

The Roku also has a bunch of apps for other content. Plex is just one such app, so Roku can do a LOT more as well. And if you have a cable or Satellite subscription, you can enable apps from networks like NBC, ABC, Hallmark, etc, etc, and then watch some of their on demand content as well. (Note that the box will require occasional log in to channels to double check the subscription status.)

You can also view on the PC acting as the server via a web interface as well. There are Plex apps for iOS, Android, FIre TV and Web, so there are lots of ways to watch your content. Plex used to support a tuner card in the PC, but I am not sure that is still the case.
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Rob4077Author Commented:
Thanks Owen. I really appreciate your ongoing support on this. Starting work next week on developing my solution.
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Owen RubinConsultantCommented:
My pleasure. Happy to help.
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Kyle SantosQuality AssuranceCommented:
Owen's explanation here #a42698472 is on point and a great summary of how great these two technologies are for entertainment.
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