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Television Media Hardware Entertainment

Home-Grown TiVo Stories? 480

Posted by timothy
from the cheap-and-perfect-preferred dept.
PolyDwarf writes "I'm in the process of figuring out how I'm going to build a homegrown TiVo machine (i.e. a computer sitting next to or in my home electronics stack). My question for is "What's worked best for you?" Most solutions I've researched are great if you have regular cable. However, satellite systems and digital cable boxes seem to present a special challenge, in that the software on the PC needs to know about an IR connector that is then hooked up to the front of the digital cable/satellite box. Who has done a solution like what I'm researching? What cases/processors/memory/TV Card/IR transceiver/OS/software/etc worked out for you? Did the end result justify the pain and hassle?"
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Home-Grown TiVo Stories?

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  • Freevo and linux (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 21, 2003 @05:47PM (#5776638)
    Freevo and linux have been working pretty well for me. Just setup xmltv and go.
  • Mini-ITX form factor (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 21, 2003 @05:48PM (#5776650)
    A great place to look for small form factor machines is over at mini-itx.com [mini-itx.com], great small form factor stuff. For software, freshmeat.net and a bit of scripting is your friend :D
  • mythtv (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 21, 2003 @05:48PM (#5776651)
    mythtv.org looks promissing, version 0.8 works well, dunno about the receiver stuff as I just have cable.
    • Re:mythtv (Score:5, Informative)

      by Col. Klink (retired) (11632) on Monday April 21, 2003 @06:07PM (#5776839)
      Yes, I'm very happy with mythtv. With the 0.8 release, it's split between a front-end and a back-end. You can record all your programs on one machine and watch the recordings (or live TV) from any front-end machine, even if the front-end machine doesn't have a tuner card of its own.

      Mythtv also has hooks to execute any command you desire to change the channels. Plus a web front-end (mythweb) for viewing program info and recording a program or deleting old recordings.

      It doesn't recommend stuff for you to watch and it won't think you're gay if you tape Will & Grace.
    • HDTV (Score:4, Informative)

      by WatertonMan (550706) on Monday April 21, 2003 @06:23PM (#5776952)
      I couldn't tell if it supports HDTV though. There are several HDTV feeds out now and several PCI HDTV capture/play cards. It seems like a nice intermediate step towards full HDTV. I get a multimedia computer which plays/records HDTV either to a monitor capable of the resolution or to a TV where some card downscales it.

      After downloading episodes of 24, Alias, and Smallville which were in HDTV format I really am a believer in it. Fantastic looking, even on my 17" monitor.

      Unfortunately the software with the PCI cards I've seen aren't that great and are Windows only. (Sadly none are yet available for my Mac)

  • Read avs forums (Score:5, Informative)

    by scootr1 (159749) on Monday April 21, 2003 @05:49PM (#5776658)
    http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/forumdisplay.php?s= &forumid=26

    They'll be your friend.

    Regular cable is best, just because of TV tuner cards.

    Also check out http://www.mythtv.com if you want to go the linux route.
  • My setup (Score:5, Informative)

    by Kallahar (227430) <kallahar@quickwired.com> on Monday April 21, 2003 @05:50PM (#5776663) Homepage
    I have an old Celeron 433 with an STB TVPCI (BT848 chipset). For software I'm running IULabs IUVCR (their site seems to be down) which changes the channel and sets all the encoding options. Everything captures to AVI, which I then play on that computer or any other on the network (nothing has TV out yet)

    For scheduling everything is run through the MS Task Scheduler and is under manual control.

    Travis
  • Buy a Tivo (Score:3, Insightful)

    by pgrote (68235) on Monday April 21, 2003 @05:50PM (#5776664) Homepage
    How many of these topics will we see?

    They are $200 and you save time, money and effort. Even the geek effect isn't worth it this time.

    Spend the money and help a company.

    Here's a list of sites that can help if you're married to doing this:
    Freevo [sourceforge.net]
    XMLTV [membled.com]
    • Re:Buy a Tivo (Score:3, Insightful)

      by niai (310235)
      You cannot watch XVID, DIVX, real streams, or wmp streams using your TIVO.
      • Isn't that why you have a computer?
      • Re:Buy a Tivo (Score:5, Insightful)

        by elmegil (12001) on Monday April 21, 2003 @05:59PM (#5776758) Homepage Journal
        And you will be stuck paying a monthly fee to the service provider until they go out of business, you may be locked into firmware upgrades which may restrict your ability to do things like skipping commercials, etc.

        Personally, I prefer the idea of building something that I know I have full rights to modify as I see fit and don't have to pay perpetual fees for.

        • Re:Buy a Tivo (Score:2, Insightful)

          by pgrote (68235)
          That's great. So, can I have some of the time you have?

          It's well worth it for me to have the best device invented since the car FREE MY TIME and no longer FORCE ME TO BE A SLAVE to the TV programming gods.

          $4.99 a month and all I had to do was plug it in, connect three cables and turn it on. Kick ass. Count me in.

          As for being a more open platform, check out:

          Tivo Forums [tivocommunity.com]
          • I didn't say I was writing my own system from scratch, did I? Any Geek time spent doing this would have been spent playing half life or some other equally useless thing anyway, so what's your beef?
          • It's well worth it for me to have the best device invented since the car...

            to me that's like saying 'the best game invented since russian roulette...'

            when there's something on that I want to watch and I won't be home, I just program my vcr to record it. I call it me-vo.
      • Re:Buy a Tivo (Score:5, Insightful)

        by merlyn (9918) on Monday April 21, 2003 @06:04PM (#5776807) Homepage Journal
        You also don't get the quality of the program guide if you don't buy a TiVo and subscribe to their service. I've seen the public ones. No other guide service comes close to what I get from my TiVo.
        • I haven't tried either, but I wouldn't doubt your statement.

          Seems to me, though, that more people doing homebrew and using those services ought to help improve the quality a bit. I imagine it could work something like the CDDB.
        • Re:Buy a Tivo (Score:4, Informative)

          by billmaly (212308) <<ten.asudoelcm> <ta> <ylam.llib>> on Monday April 21, 2003 @08:15PM (#5777654)
          I have got to second this!! The Tivo box (hardware) is great, no complaints. But, where the whole idea really shines is in the software/UI/program guide marraige. The way TiVo allows me to search for shows, select alt. viewing times, specify recording quality, the whole package, really and truly makes it worth the $13 a month for the service. Home rolled is nice and all, but for the time and money you will expend, you will not grow a TiVo clone..not even close. Do yourself the favor, buy a TiVo, check it out...if I am wrong, take it back and get your money back, One of the best devices I ever bought!!
    • The main reason I see to doing this myself would be to integrate everything.

      I want an entire home theater system based around a PC. This means, no TV, no stereo reciever, no rack full of other shit. Instead, I want a PC, a nice set of speakers, a projector (and optionally a monitor too).

      I want to be able to access all my media (movies, music, tv, radio, etc) from one interface. The big advantages to this are the convenience (assuming it works out okay), the space efficiency, the re-use/sharing of comp
      • In my case, I don't care if it looks like typical home theater equipment. Afterall, it's not typical home theater equipment. A regular case is fine

        So far this is the best looking case [atechfabrication.com] I've seen. It fits full AGP cards and ATX motherboards, has a nifty slot loading DVD, but alas is $350.
    • I own a Tivo and plan to build a media box one of these days.

      For one thing, by building it myself I have a lot more options with what I can do with it: internet accessible, play DvDs/mp3/ogg/mpegs, etc.

      For another, I won't have to put up with a monthly fee or ads.

      With Tivo your box does what they want. If you build it yourself it'll do what you want.
    • Re:Buy a Tivo (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Actually, it's not so much the expense that is the issue as it is the lack of features. TIVO still stores captured programs in a proprietary (encoded) format that prevents you from directly downloading the content for burning on VCD/SVCD/DVD. It also (unless you purchase one of a series of NIC kits) does not have a NIC natively.

      The $200 for a TIVO (which is the low-end version, read "small HD") is not that bad, but then you add more space, a monthly subscription, NIC kit, etc, etc. to get where you want
    • "How many of these topics will we see?

      They are $200 and you save time, money and effort.

      Even the geek effect isn't worth it this time.

      Spend the money and help a company."


      Or you can reuse an old computer and save the environment. *eyeroll*

      Seriously, though, PC-based PVR != Tivo. You can (easily) dump shows to your laptop. I found that useful when I was sent on a rather boring business trip. You can also easily archive what you capture, which isn't very easy to do today with Tivo and related units.
    • Re:Buy a Tivo (Score:5, Informative)

      by oGMo (379) on Monday April 21, 2003 @06:15PM (#5776901)
      They are $200 and you save time, money and effort. Even the geek effect isn't worth it this time.

      It took me at most an hour to hack up a script to record using Ruby [ruby-lang.org] and mp1e [sourceforge.net] from RTE. Here it is [nwlink.com], and here's a sample listing [nwlink.com]. Real hard. Not. It finds dupes, conflicts, and can easily support multiple cards just by running multiple instances.

      Granted, it doesn't track showtime changes, and it's not fancy at all. But it gets the job done, it was easy to write, it's easy to modify, and it's been recording all the TV I watch for the past few months without a hitch. It cost me an hour of my time.

      Spend the money and help a company.

      Why would I want to do that? TiVo isn't exactly a "nice" company, either. It might be one thing if these came with open specs for modification, pulling the files off and burning them, and modifying the source to do what I want. But they don't. And they won't.

      Here's a list of sites that can help if you're married to doing this:

      How could you forget MythTV [mythtv.org], particularly when Freevo is just a ripoff of MythTV source?

    • "Even the geek effect isn't worth it this time"

      Bah, well unfortunatly the other 80% of the world doesnt have this option. I'd love to give my money to some poor bastards, but unfortunatly I will have to do this myself.
    • by earthforce_1 (454968) <earthforce_1 @ y a h o o . c om> on Monday April 21, 2003 @07:20PM (#5777304) Journal
      I live in Canada - TiVo is not supported here, for love or money. Besides, I would prefer a totally DRM free and open, networkable appliance. I am really looking forward to seeing HDTV and time-shifting support.

      I wish these open source projects would pool their efforts - I hate to see duplication of effort between Myth TV and Freevo.
  • by Naikrovek (667) <jjohnson@nospaM.psg.com> on Monday April 21, 2003 @05:50PM (#5776666)
    they're not THAT expensive, and its probably not worth the effort at all to try and duplicate all that functionality.

    I suppose its one thing if you want to do this for the purposes of learning how to do it, but if you're going to build it to try and save money, just buy a tivo. you're going to wind up spending as much or more money and a LOT of time fine-tuning everything to your preference, and working out little bugs with a self-built solution.

    so, unless this is a project that's more about the journey than the destination, get a tivo.
    • by falser (11170) on Monday April 21, 2003 @06:02PM (#5776782) Homepage
      Yup, don't go the homebrew route if you want to save money and have a robust, simple, solution. I'm in the process of building a freevo/mythtv box. It's a lot of work to get the drivers working, I'm getting poor performance with an AMD 1.4GHz machine, and the software is not ready for prime time. The remote control that comes with the Leadtek Winfast TV2000 is a little flakey - it works, but not all the buttons are functional under Linux. Overall it's just one big expensive pain in the butt.

      There are only a few reasons that you might really want to go this route:

      1) you already have the spare parts you need
      2) you live outside the US where Tivo is unavailable
      3) you like spending lots of time getting stuff to work in Linux
      4) you absolutely need the extra functionality that Tivo does not give (DVD burning, network capability etc.)

      Otherwise, Tivo with the unlimited subscription is cheaper and less hassle.
      • by J. Tang (16252) on Monday April 21, 2003 @06:48PM (#5777134)
        Just a note to people who still want to have fun hacking away: TiVos run a custom Linux kernel on a PowerPC board. Those lucky enought with a Series 1 TiVo can hack it the kernel to do stuff like providing a bash prompt or run a web server. Those with a Series 2 with Home Media Option (HMO) can write all sorts of applets to their hearts contents; see www.tivo.com/developer to download the API.

        To the original poster: Is it really worth it to build your own system if you reside within the TiVo market? Have you considered things like: hardware costs (a fast processor, video capture board, lots of RAM, motherboard, case), software (time to get the kernel + driver working, time to cobble together a UI), and other intangibles (getting a remote to work, fan noise, getting timely scheduling information)?
      • by stickyc (38756) on Monday April 21, 2003 @08:21PM (#5777691) Homepage
        if you want to save money and have a robust, simple, solution

        Don't underestimate the importance of this paragraph. It's one thing to have your desktop machine, which you futz around with constantly go on the fritz, but when you've had a really long shitty day and just wanna sit down and veg in front of a home-made Futurama marathon, the last thing you want is a blank screen with no clue what's going on.

    • TiVo has lots of flaws:
      • $13 monthly fee.
      • If TiVo goes out of business, you're screwed.
      • TiVo doesn't remember what shows you've seen, so it keeps recording the same ones over and over.
      • TiVo doesn't understand that there might be multiple people who use the same TiVo. Therefore there's no way to tell it that one person is ready to delete a program but the other person isn't.
      • If you want to record two shows simultaneously and don't have DirecTV, you need to get two TiVos (which is fine) but you also have to p
      • by Anonymous Coward

        $13 monthly fee.

        Yeah. So? You can also pay $300 for a lifetime subscription. Pays for itself after a couple of years. Two years may be a long time but it's not like we're going to be seeing any major changes in that time.

        If TiVo goes out of business, you're screwed.

        Depends. I suspect that they will have to take lifetime subscriptions into account and provide support for the expected lifetime of the product (4 years last time I checked).

        TiVo doesn't remember what shows you've seen, so it keeps recor

      • by Nugget (7382)
        It's hard to add storage space to a TiVo. You have to crack the case, remove the existing drive, and replace it with a new one.

        Please explain how this is more challenging than building an entire machine, hard drive and all, to host one of the opensource solutions?

      • by LoadStar (532607) on Monday April 21, 2003 @06:58PM (#5777207)

        Just to correct/clarify a few of your points...

        • Standalone: $13 monthly fee, or $249 product lifetime. DirecTiVo: $4.99 monthly fee, no product lifetime available.
        • If TiVo goes out of business, they have promised to release a "boatanchor" code to the public to allow TiVos to continue to function.
        • TiVo will not record the same episode of a show within a 28 day period, unless the user overrides this feature manually, or the episode guide information is missing/incorrect.
        • TiVo will delete episodes to free space for new recordings, unless marked "Save Until I Delete." If "SUID" is selected, that episode will not be deleted unless manually deleted by the user. Number of people using the TiVo is irrelevant - if one person deletes the episode without checking with the other, that's not TiVo's fault. And TiVo will delete shows not marked SUID regardless of if 0, 1, 2, or more people have watched the episode.
        • Correct - there are no "dual tuner" TiVo's compatible with cable or "over the air." You can, however, record one program while watching another pre-recorded show without a problem.
        • TiVo requires a phone line, or you can use an internal NIC for Series I units, or a USB NIC for Series II units. See the TiVo Community Forum for details.
        • It's only marginally harder to add space to a TiVo than it is to add space to a "roll your own" PVR. The only additional step required is to "bless" the drive, and you can purchase pre-blessed drives on the internet.
      • by amuro98 (461673) on Monday April 21, 2003 @07:17PM (#5777294)
        Why pay the monthly fee? Pay the lifetime fee and be done with it. Besides, it's cheaper.

        If Tivo does go out of business, I can continue using my Tivo as a "dumb" PVR. I just won't have the guide or the features it enabled.

        Tivo does remember what it's recorded - to a point. If the same episode (description, etc.) shows up within a certain amount of time, Tivo won't re-record it. You can also tell Tivo not to record reruns. Unfortunatly this relies on the guide data being accurate - something that many of the channels don't do (Comedy Central is particularly bad with The Daily Show, for instance.)

        Yes, the multiple people & 1 Tivo problem comes up a lot. Still, what product is perfect? Both Tivo and users have come up with workarounds while Tivo tries to figure out how to solve this.

        You can get your Tivo to use your network connection instead. In fact, Tivo prefers this as it's cheaper for them than having your unit call in everyday.

        For adding storage, it took me an hour - most of which was spent waiting for the disk copy to finish mirroring the Tivo software from the small 30GB drive, to the larger 60GB drive I bought. Later, I bought a 100GB drive, formatted it, stuck into the Tivo, and the Tivo did the rest. Ooh, that was "hard." Yes, you do have to open the case, and you will violate your warranty doing this, but I fail to see how this is "hard" - especially among a group of folks who can probably assemble PCs while blindfolded and asleep.
  • Some guidance (Score:2, Informative)

    by smalloy (600866)
    Some guidance may be found at http://www.avsforum.com Search for "HTPC" (Home theater personal computer). Granted, the basic HTPC goes well beyond Tivo-like functionality and worries about things like progressive-scan DVD output, and doing Tivo-like things with High Definition sources.
  • What happened to the days of using a VCR? Yes its not cool or geeky or even the best quality but it certainly suffices for tape delaying a show. Plus a good VCR costs like $60 nowadays with tapes to be had for under a buck. Cheap and a tried a true technology(plus no monthly fee!).
    • by Nugget (7382) <nugget@distributed.net> on Monday April 21, 2003 @05:57PM (#5776743) Homepage
      What happened?

      VCRs are being replaced by better technology that does more, better, and provide a much more useful experience. VCRs perform only a small portion of what a PVR does that it's really unfair to compare them.

      The real win of a PVR is being completely insulated from scheduling and the learning capabilities which are able to record programs which you'll enjoy but aren't aware of yet.
      • VCRs perform only a small portion of what a PVR does that it's really unfair to compare them.

        It's not, though. Most people use their PVRs to record stuff or to pause commercials. So, you ignore the commercial pausing stuff, and a VCR fits the bill.

        At a quarter of the price.

        And without a subscription fee.
        • Ignoring the unsupportable and counter-intuitive "most people" speculation, you're still not making a very strong case in favor of VCRs.

          Even if a person is just "recording stuff" a VCR is a suboptimal solution in the face of constantly shifting network schedules and preemptions. There's a vast chasm of difference between telling a device "I sure like that show 'Ed'. If it comes on (and only if it's a new episode) please record it." and telling a device "record whatever is on channel 9 on Fridays at 8:00p
          • Even if a person is just "recording stuff" a VCR is a suboptimal solution in the face of constantly shifting network schedules and preemptions. There's a vast chasm of difference between telling a device "I sure like that show 'Ed'. If it comes on (and only if it's a new episode) please record it." and telling a device "record whatever is on channel 9 on Fridays at 8:00pm. If the schedule changes I'll be sure to remember to update it."

            Try that for more than two or three programs and you've graduated to nee
        • by ryanr (30917) <ryan@thievco.com> on Monday April 21, 2003 @06:37PM (#5777063) Homepage Journal
          I tried this route.

          I had trouble with getting my VCR to play one show while recording another. I also had some difficulty getting it to stream video from my home network. I couldn't figure out how to set the IP address on the VCR. It doesn't seem to use DHCP either. I think the IP is hardcoded to 1.2.0.0 or something, but setting my gateway to 1.2.0.1 didn't help, it won't ARP for it.

          The commercial skip feature works, but it's pretty slow. Resetting the file to the beginning also takes forever for some reason. The REW button works eventually, but I can't find the slider. At first I thought it was hung, but I just let it sit for 5 minutes, and it finally switched from the REW state to the STOP state.

          There's some sort of bug, the media cartridges keep auto-ejecting if I try to record more than 3 hours. There's a low quality mode (mpeg1?) which works for 6 hours, but the quality is just about unusable. This problem is interfering with the monthly show scheduling.

          I also can't seem to get it to load any games, browse the web, or play DVDs. I'm not sure how to even load code onto it. Does anyone have an VHS API reference?
    • You've got to be kidding.

      VCR = terrible video and audio quality, poor scheduling, and limited capacity
    • by oneiros27 (46144) on Monday April 21, 2003 @06:32PM (#5777023) Homepage
      Personally, I still have a VCR.... three of 'em, in fact, and I use them quite often for making copies of things for other people.

      However, I get much better quality making the original dub using a digital recording (well, I've had a few times where it's gone odd, but typically it's a much higher quality, and I don't end up introducing macrovision in there 'till the final run to tape). It's easier to edit out the commercials once, if I'm going to be making multiple copies to tape, or even just changing the playback order.

      Oh..and let's not forget storage... I'm recording at about 1G/hr... so with 2x120G drives in my system, I don't have to worry about changing tapes every few hours. [and actually, every show, as when I used to send everything straight to VHS, I tried to keep shows in order on each tape, so some nights, I'd be switching tapes every hour or 30 minutes, and having to get the next one queued up and wait for my VCR to to its recording calibration test in just a minute or so.

      Now, I can collect up a few shows, and when I want to dump to tape, I just prep a job to run overnight, or do it right before I leave for work....

      hmmm...that reminds me...I was supposed to dub a new copy of Invader Zim for a friend who wore our her tape. (she has a TiVo, but well, she doesn't have enough space on it to keep all of her Zim)
    • by NanoGator (522640) on Monday April 21, 2003 @06:35PM (#5777051) Homepage Journal
      "What happened to the days of using a VCR? Yes its not cool or geeky or even the best quality but it certainly suffices for tape delaying a show. Plus a good VCR costs like $60 nowadays with tapes to be had for under a buck. Cheap and a tried a true technology(plus no monthly fee!)."

      Hi! New here? Just transferred from the "Doesn't Get It" department?
    • by rusty0101 (565565) on Monday April 21, 2003 @06:46PM (#5777122) Homepage Journal
      I understand that there are these manufacturing byproducts of processing trees, called books. They seem to come in varying costs from a couple of dollars, through hundreds, or even thousands of dollars in rare incidents. I understand that the modern distributers like to get between $5 and $25 for a new one, and they don't ask you to pay that much again, should you decide to re-read the book.

      Surely they are good enough for you, and you shouldn't be pushing these newfangled VCR's on people.

      -Rusty
  • Sure plenty of people have done this.

    It's called the Set Top Box.

    It was part of the dot com burst, I worked for a company called E-Cable that made their own servers running at the top of apartment buildings, which streamed video to clients with special outlets in their condo's. The company busted dot com style though.

    Bell Canada also had a pilot project using servers and computers the size of VCR s called "Alex". Cyryx 233 MMX chips with special MPEG cards that streamed from the servers. This never mater
  • by Nugget (7382) <nugget@distributed.net> on Monday April 21, 2003 @05:53PM (#5776700) Homepage
    To stave off all the wankers sure to fire up with their superior "I don't watch TV!" pablum, here's the obligatory theonion.com article [theonion.com]. Grow up, folks. There's plenty of quality programming out there and PVR's (TiVo included) are a great tool to filter the good stuff out from the worthless programming. Avoiding television because you don't like Survivor is like staying off the Internet because AOL is here. It just means you're incapable of scrutiny.
  • My setup:

    G4 500
    200 GB internal storage
    EyeTV TV tuner (1 coax in and 1 RCA video/audio in)
    RCA video in/out
    2 S-video out
    1 S-video in
    1 RCA audio in
    1 RCA audio out
    1 1/8" stereo miniplug in
    1 1/8" stereo miniplug out
    SCSI
    USB
    FireWire
    serial x 2
    dual ethernet
    DVD-RW (Pioneer 104)
    Mac OS X Jaguar
    Keyspan Remote
    drives a 14" VGA and 27" TV
    VCD DivX MPEG-4 etc. support
    online scheduling w/ TitanTV
    Full Internet Access
    screen resolution on the TV up to 1024x768
    and much much more

    sound yummy? Its killer, and I'm putting together
    • So what do you think of the video quality?
      • Not bad video from the EyeTV. its straight to MPEG-1, so you have to edit it in the EyeTV app, and its about 650MB per hour. Equivalent to VHS quality (LP). And the VCDs that you can burn w/ Toast play in almost any recent DVD player and honestly don't look too bad. I put some South Parks on a VCD and took them to my mom's house and her big ass 40" HDTV, and to be honest it didn't look or sound all that bad. I mean, we're not talking DVD by any standard, but definitely worthwhile.

        Plus I can put my 4 f
    • sound yummy? Its killer, and I'm putting together a web page w/ all the pics from the assembly and the final product.

      Ye gods, man! If I take out a second I'm going to repaint the house, not build a media system. How much did you pay for all that?

      My Setup:

      TiVo (bought new for about $300)
      Linksys USB Ethernet adapter for TiVo ($30)
      AudioTron (bought on close-out for $130)
      Slow frankenstein PC for MP3 storage (100 bucks?)
      Used 10mbit hub bolted to the wall (free)
      Korean DVD player ($40? Not sure...)

  • First, check out avsforum.com. Believe me, if it's been done, someone has written about it there. I have an HTPC (That's a home theater PC) which I love. I don't watch live tv on it, but I do watch DVD's. Now, some people have put tuner cards in theirs, and do watch live tv, and even have implemeted tivo-like features in them. What I really want though, is a directv tuner card for the pc. I know why there isn't a legal one yet, but I can't believe that no one has managed to make one yet. I'm not sure
  • by jd142 (129673) on Monday April 21, 2003 @05:55PM (#5776727) Homepage
    http://www.ramelectronics.net/html/HTPC.html [ramelectronics.net]. Found it this morning for the earlier discussion.
  • by Sheetrock (152993) on Monday April 21, 2003 @05:56PM (#5776736) Homepage Journal
    I've looked into setting up something like this myself. I thought it'd be pretty cool to run a PVR using Linux with MythTV, but there are a number of issues that make it impractical.

    First, I'm not sure at all what components to pick up for such an endeavor. Linux only seems to run the high-end stuff with any level of reliability, which begs the question of whether or not it is worth building something like this with Free Software if the hardware costs are enormous. But the overhead of using open source code rather than software written by the companies making the hardware evidently shows.

    Second, trying to find a decent remote control for something like this seems pretty hard. I've heard of various solutions, but all seem to involve familiarity with device drivers and writing your own glue code. Not fun.

    Then there is the sound card issue. Windows seems to make Dolby output easy, but just getting the sound card to run at all can be an issue under Linux. I run two -- one off the motherboard (through ALSA) and a Sound Blaster Live! through OSS, and I can't change the mixer settings on the Live! card. On Windows, it just detected everything and it worked.

    So in conclusion, it seems like such a project might be feasible, but I don't know if it would be worth the time and investment. TiVos don't cost as much as I could see spending in time and money to homebrew a Linux solution. If you're looking for something even more powerful than a TiVo, you might as well sink the money into a Windows Media Center PC. These things will handle just about anything you throw at them.

    • " First, I'm not sure at all what components to pick up for such an endeavor. Linux only seems to run the high-end stuff with any level of reliability, which begs the question of whether or not it is worth building something like this with Free Software if the hardware costs are enormous. But the overhead of using open source code rather than software written by the companies making the hardware evidently shows."

      ??

      WTF would the hardware costs be enormous? It either works or it doesn't with Linux. A little
  • MythTV is great (Score:5, Interesting)

    by foom (29095) on Monday April 21, 2003 @05:58PM (#5776746) Homepage
    I just built myself a new MythTV (www.mythtv.org) box a few weeks ago with the following hardware:
    Shuttle SK41G case+MB+PSU - $250
    120GB Maxtor Fluid Dynamic Bearings 5400RPM HD - $130
    WinTV dbx model 401 card - $100
    Athlon 1800+ (I did not need to get this fast a processor, but I wanted speed left over for other things too) - $60
    512MB DDR ram: $70
    New remote control: $20
    Total: $630

    It works great, does ff/rew/pause of live TV, downloads TV listings off free websites, lets you record all showings of a show, has a webserver builtin so you can set recordings remotely, etcetc.

    It also looks pretty and works great with a remote control so you really can use it like a set top box.

    There are even optional modules for showing the weather, playing MP3s, and running various emulators/games.

    It also supports multiple frontends and backends, so you can make an ultimate setup with 10 tuner cards and 20 TVs all connected to the same video storage if you're so inclined.
    • I'm curious, but from reading the mailing lists I wasn't able to find an answer easily...

      What if I have cable and satellite? Can it handle both at the same time? (ie, get listings for both services and choose the appropriate tuner card for each)?
    • Re:MythTV is great (Score:4, Insightful)

      by ilsie (227381) on Monday April 21, 2003 @07:13PM (#5777276)
      Series 2 40 hour refurbed TiVo- $150 AR
      120GB Maxtor Fluid Dynamic Bearings 5400RPM HD - $130 (Just using the same HD you did for clarity)
      Lifetime Service- $250
      Total : $530

      Mine does all kinds of fancy ff/rew/pause, I can easily schedule all recordings, etc., I can have TiVo tell me what to watch (I dont, but I could), I have 30-sec commercial skip, and I have a really nice remote that is extremely well designed and always works.

      To be honest, I could really care less about MP3s and emulators and such, I already have a PC and a Mac that can stream MP3s, an Xbox (and a PC and a Mac) that will play emulators/games (and can also stream MP3, vorbis, divx, etc etc etc etc)
  • MythTV (Score:5, Informative)

    by pz (113803) on Monday April 21, 2003 @05:59PM (#5776754) Journal
    The MythTV Project [mythtv.org] is what you want. As often noted on Slashdot, it does nearly everything that TiVo does, and a heapload more. It's open source, and under active development ... however, it's not quite at full functionality. The most recent stable release is version 0.8 and while not without some bugs seems to work quite nicely. I've paired it with a AVerTV Studio TV capture card, a Shuttle FV25 mainboard, and a Celeron 1.4 GHz processor. To my understanding, MythTV supports external tuner devices such as satellite systems. Installation/construction is straightforward but not for the faint of heart. Some RPMs exist for certain required components, but much of installation involves the "./configure; make; su; make install" cycle.

    IF -- and this is a strong supposition -- you either have spare hardware laying around that's pretty strong (eg, in the GHz range rather than 100s of MHz) or have a weird bent on building your own systems, then by all means roll up your sleeves and dig in! However, if you are looking for the least expensive or easiest alternative, then buy a used or refurbished TiVo.
  • Cable. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by labratuk (204918) on Monday April 21, 2003 @06:00PM (#5776760)
    While the temptation to make a PVR is really great at the moment, what with mythTV and friends getting better and better, it really isn't practical at the moment. At least here in the UK, for me, it isn't.

    Why?

    All but 4 (well, 4.5 counting ch5) channels are sent through cable for me. Admittedly, those channels do have the better programming on, but it would be somewhat lame not being able to record cable channels.

    For instance, I have digital cable (ntl). All the decoding is done in the cable box and shoved through to channel 7 on the tv. This means you can only record from one pre determined cable channel. Unless you somehow set up lirc to send a 'channel change' ir command to the cable box every time it wants to change cable channel. I've thought about this, but it would be tricky and probably unreliable.

    The question really is: can I justify building a PVR for just 4 channels?
    • Re:Cable. (Score:2, Informative)

      by notNeilCasey (521896)
      Many Digital cable receiver/decoders have a serial port on the back that can be connected to your PVR System and controlled by it using a script you'd have to write. Barring that, yes, you can set up a script using lirc to change channels.

      From the MythTV FAQ:
      Is it possible to have MythTV change the channel on my digital cable/satellite box, instead of my tuner card?

      - Yes. In the setup program, under "Input Connections", you can configure a command to run whenever the channel needs to be changed on an i
    • Tivo does this with something they call a IR blaster. Basically, it's a long, thin cable with an ir output at the end, and you attach the blaster to the front of the cable box, over top of the cable box's IR receiver. You pick what cable box you have from a long menu, and can also control the speed that the tivo sends the signals to the cable box.

      It works mostly ok, but sometimes our crappy cable box misses the signal and ends up changing to the wrong channel. To enhance the reliability of the blaster, I a
  • My Answer For You (Score:5, Informative)

    by dbretton (242493) on Monday April 21, 2003 @06:00PM (#5776766) Homepage
    My question for [you] is[,] "What's worked best for you?"

    Tivo

  • How about Alienware? (Score:3, Informative)

    by valkraider (611225) on Monday April 21, 2003 @06:06PM (#5776826) Journal
    Alienware [alienware.com] seems to have a good model [alienware.com], looks nice too. Apple [apple.com] needs to bring back the Cube [cube-zone.com] for this very purpose...
  • That's what's holding me back from going mythtv -- I am on ExpressVu and want to be able to save the MPEG stream directly to HDD or at with a minimum of screwing around.

    There are some DVB PCI cards from Germany (ExpressVu is standard DVB, throw in your access card and you're done) but they're on the order of $400!! I've been through the schematics of my old 2700-series receiver and while I can tap off the digital audio, the unencrypted MPEG video stream seems to never leave the custom decrypt/decode chip

  • by markv242 (622209) on Monday April 21, 2003 @06:11PM (#5776869)
    "I'm too cheap to purchase an awesome product from a company that needs consumers, so how can I build my own [insert product here]?"

    This is -1 Redundant, but just buy a Tivo. The Tivo service alone is worth the subscription fee, and Tivo v2 users who have a Mac will absolutely love the new Media Pack, allowing for Rendezvous discovery of iTunes / iPhoto libraries.

    • by SuperBanana (662181) on Monday April 21, 2003 @09:06PM (#5777982)
      Next up: "How can I build my own car?"

      While off-topic, I feel the need to point out something about this comment- it's aburdly ignorant. Believe it or not, a LOT of people feel that no car company makes what THEY want, or they want the experience of going through the design process at any of a number of levels, from "simple" modifications to an existing shell, to really wild stuff or completely custom, hand-formed cars. You see this in particular with motorcycles, because they're easier to make from scratch, and of course, motorcycle enthusiasts are famous for wanting something -unique-; plenty of motorcycle guys would cut their throats before stepping into a Honda Civic(or a Honda bike, for that matter.)

      There are lots of kit cars available, including my personal favorite, the Caterham R500. It's based off the famous Lotus Super Seven, weighs half a ton, and has 250 HP(hence a 500hp/ton ratio, and hence the name). It -is- a race car(again, it's basically a Lotus Super Seven), you can get it for $40k, and embarass silly almost every production roadcar made on the planet; it hits 60mph in a little over 3 seconds(it is limited top-speed-wise though, it has the high-speed aerodynamics of a brick), and being so light, it'll easily out-corner -every- production car available today; motorcycles are probably the only thing capable of beating it. The fact that you BUILT your car, versus the "poser" in the 911 twin turbo who "just" bought his car, is icing on the I-just-spanked-your-3x-as-expensive-little-toy cake.

      In the slightly-less-extreme category, there are those of us who buy old cars and keep them running. I own a 10+ year old Audi that with a few hundred dollars in modifications has 280hp, all wheel drive, 5-speed(these are getting rarer and rarer-dammit, I don't WANT an automatic!) an ENORMOUS amount of interior space and trunk space, gets about 22-24mpg highway, weighs 3600lb(that's VERY light compared to cars its size today- full-size luxury cars nowadays tip the scale at well over 4,000lb- often much more!) It looks like "some old Audi"(nobody will ever steal it.) I get to blow the doors off most everything save the cream of the crop of sports cars. If I ever get bored and have the money, 330hp is about $2-3k around the corner. Almost everything on the car is easy to understand, and occasionally specialized tools are required, but I can repair almost anything myself with enough determination; I also have plenty of parts sources so I can get almost anything quickly and far below what a mechanic/dealer would charge me.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 21, 2003 @06:15PM (#5776904)
    Seriously. It works.

    I tried to roll my own. I bought an ATI 8500DV specifically because they touted their awesome TV-on-Demand capabilities. Seemed perfect.

    8500DV: $235

    Until I tried to use the damn thing. Oh. It doesn't work well with my motherboard. I was planning to upgrade anyway.

    Refurb motherboard: $50
    XP1800+: $95
    ATX Case: $40
    DDR RAM: $100

    Okay. We're up and running. TV-on-Demand works great. Scheduling recordings isn't that good, tho. The software's pretty bad. Can't do anything automatically. Can't clear out old searches. No conflict resolution. Only a week's worth of data. And it sure wasn't cheaper than a Tivo when I figure in the cost of the new PC. But I can handle setting up scheduled recordings once a week. And the live TV stuff is great.

    Oh. The live TV stuff stops working if the machine's been running for a few hours. Maybe I should upgrade to the latest drivers and software. Great. Now it doesn't work with one of my games. Try a different version. Now TV-on-Demand is worse. Try a different version. Hey! Finally have a setting that spits out SVCD format. Too bad TV-on-Demand is totally broken now.

    And so began the downward spiral. After a few weeks, I just bought a damn Tivo. $200 for the unit, $80 for a network adapter (series 1), $250 for lifetime service. About what I spent on the computer solution with one major difference. IT WORKS. I can leave it alone for days, weeks, months at a time.
  • Outside US (Score:3, Informative)

    by IanBevan (213109) on Monday April 21, 2003 @06:24PM (#5776963) Homepage
    Your comment is fine for people in the US. However here in New Zealand the options are considerably more limited as I expect they are in the vast majority of countries, large and small alike.
  • by handsomepete (561396) on Monday April 21, 2003 @06:25PM (#5776973) Journal
    I have both a Tivo and a homebrew, and unless you have real serious moral obligations to purchasing something from a company instead of building your own, consider getting a Tivo.

    Homebrew: All parts (sff case, mb, memory, cpu, tv card, large hdd, etc. using MythTV) = ~$650
    +: Yours to do with whatever you please, using actively maintained popular open free software, easily hardware upgradable, fun to play around with, much more software functionality (MythMusic, emulator front end, weather modules, etc.)
    -: Hardware failure is your problem, TV software not quite up to par, more expensive, not quite as slick looking (without looking real hard for a decent case), maintainers can stop working whenever they get the urge, good luck getting digital/satellite TV working well with a cheapo TV card

    Tivo + Lifetime subscription = ~$600 (add a larger hdd for more money)
    +: Company paying people to maintain software and accurate listings, nice to look at, full featured and completely functional, hacker friendly, warranty makes getting a replacement unit easier, software head and shoulders above competition (IMHO YMMV blah blah - I'm sure other posts outline such functionality), it's a device that doesn't care if the power gets yanked on it, is built to support all sorts of television (digital cable, satellite, coax, whatever)
    -: Warranty voided if you open it up, no control over software or updates, company controls any and all software, if Tivo goes out of business listings and software are at their mercy (although there's rumors of a Plan B if that should happen), only does the TV thing (unless you feel like paying for the lackluster Home Media option).

    Simply put:
    Like tinkering? Have a lot of time and money to burn? Roll your own. Otherwise, there's an excellent effortless pvr already available for the same cost. Worst case scenario, buy a Tivo and keep the receipt (choose monthly sub instead of lifetime). Give it a test run. Don't like it? Return it and make a better one.

    The real question is: Has anyone started trying to hack together drivers for the Tivo hardware so you can use their box but your own software?
  • I have an HDTV tv which has a standard VGA port, which the manual says will accept 1080i input: 1920x1080 60hz interlaced.

    Does anyone know of a video card which will support this resolution (and refresh rate)? Several support the resolution, but none seem to do 60hz interlaced.
  • Spotted this earlier today in a web advertisment: http://www.lbdata.net/dvr/ [lbdata.net]

    I have no idea what OS it runs.

    I have no idea if anyone has ever ordered, received, and been happy with one.

    I have no idea why it looks like it has built in speaker thingies.

    Just the same, it looked like a cool box, so someone out there besides me is probably interested :) Until I am older and more settled, I would like to avoid (to the extent practical) things that require subscriptions, telephone priveleges, etc. I'd pay quit
  • by sdo1 (213835) on Monday April 21, 2003 @06:33PM (#5777033) Journal
    This is like someone asking "I want a device I can wear on my wrist that tells the time, but I don't want a watch."

    OK, build your own watch-like device. Maybe you can even design one with more features that does EXACTLY what you want. But if your time is worth anything, you're better off trucking down to the local watch store and buying one there.

    -S
  • WindowsXP (don't flame me pricks)
    Radeon 8500 AIW
    Athlon XP 1700
    512 MB DDR Ram
    2 x 80gig segate baraccuda IV
    Wireless remote included with radeon
    Software: snapstream http://www.snapstream.com/
    Snapstream is network aware I guess you would say, I can watch tv from any computer in my house, or from the tv that snapstream is on. Screen shots at the link below

    http://www.snapstream.com/products/sspvs/screens ho ts/

    and on a side note I had an uptime of 90+ days with this setup before the power went out.

    Bewa

  • not worth it (Score:3, Interesting)

    by blaine (16929) on Monday April 21, 2003 @07:16PM (#5777288)
    I built a homebrew Tivo. I did so mainly because I had a bunch of parts around, and I felt like seeing what I could do with it.

    On the one hand, it was kind of fun getting set up.

    On the other hand, it took a hell of a lot of time, the video quality was substandard, and it was a pain in the ass to set the programming. I couldn't do good compression in realtime, so I had to save in crappy MJPEG compression and then later recompress in batches. Even with a 80GB scratch drive in it, the thing was always battling for more space due to the large initial files.

    Did I mention that 2 or 3 different times, kernel upgrades broke my TV card?

    I eventually dismantled the system. I'm considering buying a real Tivo soon, but even if I don't, I will not be making another homebrew one. It just isn't worth the time and effort. The V1 Tivos can be configured so you can pull the video right off via ethernet, and people are working on that functionality for the V2 ones. And if you care about playing DivX and stuff like that, mod an XBox. You can play pretty much anything on them, with a lot less effort.
  • by SrlKlr (219192) on Monday April 21, 2003 @08:13PM (#5777642) Homepage
    I am really surprised that no one has mentioned Windows XP Media Center. It has one thing that many other apps lack, the easy User Interface. http://www.microsoft.com/windowsxp/mediacenter/

    Right now you still have to buy Media Center box from a vendor like HP, but the OS is already on the filesharing networks and someone release a hack to any XP Pro machine to turn it into a Media Center. (Its on sharereactor.com - an emule network)

    I am putting together a high end entertainment system for my non-technical Dad and this seemed to make the most sense.

    Also, Anandtech did a nice review: http://www.anandtech.com/showdoc.html?i=1766
  • by gozar (39392) on Monday April 21, 2003 @08:20PM (#5777683) Homepage

    Get a ReplayTV and DVArchive [sourceforge.net]. You use the ReplayTV to schedule and record your shows and DVArchive to backup the shows and watch them in other locations. You can also watch shows on the ReplayTV from the DVArchive machine (or multiple DVArchive machines).

    DVArchive can be set up to automatically download the shows from the ReplayTV. I haven't looked into whether MythTV supports DVArchive though.

    P.S. Someone was asking about regular cable and Satellite. The ReplayTV has two inputs (although you can only record one show at a time) so I have one setup for my Dish Network box and the other for my local cable. The ReplayTV grabs both guides and unifies them for viewing and recording.

  • My experiences (Score:3, Informative)

    by Lurgen (563428) on Monday April 21, 2003 @08:22PM (#5777703) Journal

    I built a system up for exactly this purpose - DVD playback, MP3, TV tuning, Cable-TV tuning, digital VCR, etc. I wasn't happy with the typical DVD player's support for less "mainstream" formats either (such as DivX, MPEG4, SVCD, etc), so I was pretty motivated to find a better solution.

    In the end I gave up on the TV tuning part of the project. I ended up with a dead-silent machine that can play almost any sound or video codec with perfect quality, but could not find a decent solution to the TV tuning functionality.

    Quality was my first real problem with the TV signal. Even the software supplied with the Leadtek TV-2000XP resulted in lousy picture quality. The UI was awful too! I didn't want a monitor, so I was depending heavily on my TV out support.

    The second problem was that the UI was never really intended to be used as a VCR replacement. It's like nobody ever seriously considered that I didn't want a keyboard or mouse (just a remote).

    Finally, drivers were buggy, crashes were frequent, and I gave up.


    On the other hand, I now have the best DVD player on the market. Picture quality is better than any commercially available DVD player. The digital audio output supports standards that my amp can't begin to decode (Dolby Digital 7.1 is a little too advanced for my amp).

    My advice to anybody trying this sort of project is to focus on the achievable first - TV tuning is not yet mature enough to be a viable option.

    Buy yourself a Realmagic X-Card, a copy of JovePlayer [8dim.com] (easily the best DVD player application in the world, but requires the X-Card), and build the machine. Then look at extending the functionality as the software/hardware matures.

    Lurgen [lurgen.com].

    The most important bits...
    RealMagic X-Card
    Jove Player
    Zalman CNPS-6000Cu (silence is golden)
    Seagate 60GB hard disk (nice and quiet)

One possible reason that things aren't going according to plan is that there never was a plan in the first place.

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