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Hardware Hacking Entertainment Hardware

Building the Godzilla of PVRs 318

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the because-you-can dept.
EvolvedHumanoid writes "In a blog post, Percy Bell of SnapStream Media details how he built 'Godzilla', an 11-tuner PVR machine with HDTV support using off-the-shelf components. At $4284.90, the end result sports 1TB storage for recorded content and has to be one of the coolest PVRs ever built."
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Building the Godzilla of PVRs

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  • by Caspian (99221) on Thursday January 19, 2006 @05:41PM (#14513316)
    With all that hardware, I'd guess that it is, in fact, one of the hottest PVRs ever built! ;)
  • by FalconZero (607567) * <FalconZero@GmFREEBSDail.com minus bsd> on Thursday January 19, 2006 @05:42PM (#14513320)
    four Seagate 250GB SATA drives for storing our BTV recordings and two Seagate 160GB SATA drives for the OS and other applications.
    320GB for OS and Applications?!?!? - I know Windows is a bit bloated but why the hell would you want 320GB for Apps? Thats 68DVD's worth of application! And I only know of a handfull of apps that are DVD sized. And before anyone says "maybe they've got lots of (big) games" this thing is specifically (and clearly obvious from the hardware) a PVR.
    • I haven't RTFA yet but unless it says otherwise it's probably a RAID 1.
      • Probably not, they specifically mention that the 'data' drives (the 4 250gbs) are raid 5, and say nothing of the 160s. Anyway, since this is intended to be a PVR why bother with mirroring? Why not just install all of the (supposedly enormours) applications, and dump the drive to tape?
        • by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Thursday January 19, 2006 @05:51PM (#14513423) Homepage Journal
          Having a mirror means no downtime, which means never missing a show (or, perhaps, 11 shows) because your PVR is down. It's excessive, but it's not without reason.
        • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 19, 2006 @06:03PM (#14513514)
          No, the 4 250gb's are striped, which is how they got 1 TB out of the whole array with 4 drives and not 12:

          We configured the four 250GB drives as RAID 0 (striping) and formatted them with NTFS and 64k blocks to increase the disk size and performance.

          Seems silly - if one drive goes, the whole array dies - and on a beast like this, heat is likely to SERIOUSLY degrade the life of those drives...
          • by wwwillem (253720)
            Seems silly - if one drive goes, the whole array dies - and on a beast like this, heat is likely to SERIOUSLY degrade the life of those drives...

            OK, so you loose couple of hours of 'Desparate Housewifes' .... who cares, just wait for next week's episode. :-)

            Seriously, the data you store on the drive of a PVR is not really "mission critical". So, I can understand if someone makes the trade-off for capacity versus redundancy.

          • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 19, 2006 @07:16PM (#14514141)
            I hate to be a pain here, but it really seems like this guy has alot more money than sense. There are several strange design decisions that have been made, and it seems to show someone who really isn't knowledgable.
            • Using a massive chip - For what, exactly? As long as you have a reasonable video card, the need for a fat cpu for videos is very minimal. I suppose its possible that HDTV may require faster speeds, but i doubt this. AFAIK, win32 currently doesn't really take advantage of dual core.
            • Using RAID 0. - Is he trying to get a drive burnt out?
            • Using NTFS - This is where it gets strange. I think that if you were fucking around with 1TB of data, you would want to choose your OS primarily by filesystem. Hell, I would. NTFS is one of the least stable, worst performing filesystems around. I would probably want to use XFS (it has this tendency to stack writes to the RAM before making them, reducing drive wear - I forget the name) and noflushd, so as to keep hd wear to a minimium (considering that there are gonna be long periods where no writes are done). Eventually, you could feasibily switch to ZFS to keep space use high.
            • Using a massive chip - For what, exactly?

              Video compression.
            • by Creepy (93888)
              Some defense of choices:

              Dual Core/Dual CPU - any thread or process can be split off onto the additional cores (ok, with some OS limitations), so having multiple of them is a good thing to handle writes and reads from all those tuners. Disk reads/writes are one of the worst processor eating functions (though caching helps), as they have one of the longest pipelines and tend to stall it. Windows itself doesn't do threading well (at least to use up extra CPU/cores), but extra processes will benefit from the
    • Probably Raid 1, and 160GB drives are pretty cheap anyway... why not?
    • And before anyone says "maybe they've got lots of (big) games" this thing is specifically (and clearly obvious from the hardware) a PVR


      Yeah, because it makes no sense to play games on the kick-ass PC you just built and hooked up to your best TV / media distribution system. Probably better to put the games elsewhere.
      • Yeah, because it makes no sense to play games on the kick-ass PC you just built and hooked up to your best TV / media distribution system. Probably better to put the games elsewhere.

        I have an "old" computer, It's an AMD Athlon XP 3200+ with a gig of ram and a GeForce 6800, it can hardly play multiplayer Quake 4 with the lowest detail settings but it'd probably do it better than this guys system. I also have a 1U dual Xeon server next to me with 4 gigs of ram and two 160gig SATA drives. It'd destroy thi
  • Pentium EE...dual core with htt...bad combination...very silly choice. FX-60 would be more impressive.
    • Dual Xeon w/ dual core w/ hyperthreading.
    • Even better would be a mobile-ish setup with a Centrino or Turion. If you're looking for cool and quiet without sacrificing too much speed, that's really the way to go.

      Just my $2.0e-2.
      • I think the CPU is being used to encode the shows here. At least that's why I'm guessing he needed such a beast of a CPU. Encoding 11 streams at once can't be easy. I'm guessing that's why he need such huge system disks too, to buffer the video while his CPU chugs like crazy encoding it.
        • Re:HTPC CPU Choice (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Vorondil28 (864578)
          Hmm, that starts to make me wonder when you move nearly everything but the pretty case into another room (because doing it the 'Godzilla' way obviously doesn't scale well).For not much more cash you could take all the contents of this PVR, put it in a case that will let it breathe, and stick it in the office/basement/etc for it to make as much noise as it wants. You run a fiber to carry the audio/video output from the server to the viewing room. Then you build a cheap, slim, sexy, dumb terminal of an HTPC
    • last I checked the P4 still works the athlon in video encoding... call me crazy but I have a feeling that may be what he'll use this for.
    • No. He he made the right choice. The dual-core CPUs smoke the single-core, high-hertz CPUs when it comes to tasks that can be properly threaded or broken into tasks. Like, I don't know, media applications. This guy knew what he was doing, and didn't go for the silly "My Gigahurtz is bigger than your Gigahurtz!"
  • by rob_squared (821479) <rob AT rob-squared DOT com> on Thursday January 19, 2006 @05:42PM (#14513330)
    Manufacturer's Warning:

    Not suitable for resale in Japan.
    • by identity0 (77976) on Thursday January 19, 2006 @08:12PM (#14514537) Journal
      I know you're joking, but really, it wouldn't work - because they already have [sonystyle.com] kickass PVRs. That Sony beast has 11 tuners (1 sat, 10 analog broadcast), 1 Gig RAM, 1 TB HDD, built-in streaming server (WLANa/g, LAN), DVD+-R/RW/RAM - all for 27,9800 yen, or $2,421.88. Oh, and it has an Intel Pent-D 820 and GeForce 6200(256MB).

      Or This thing [sonystyle.com], which I think is a pure PVR with no PC, 8 tuners, (Cable and broadcast), up to 2 TB HDD, $776.95.

      Somehow, I doubt they need to import giant jerry-rigged American PVRs.

      oh, and why is it that Japan makes products that are *so* much more attractive looking than American ones? Only Apple seems to match them in aesthetics...
  • Over kill (Score:5, Funny)

    by Belseth (835595) on Thursday January 19, 2006 @05:42PM (#14513336)
    an 11-tuner PVR machine with HDTV support using off-the-shelf components.

    Is there 11 channels of porn?

  • The Software (Score:3, Insightful)

    by dch24 (904899) on Thursday January 19, 2006 @05:44PM (#14513346) Journal
    Who else thinks that Beyond TV 4 Server, at $69.99, is a really great price for software that can keep all those eleven tuners busy at once? !!

    Is this the result of open source driving the price of software down? If this were a Microsoft product, just the word "Server" on the package would cost you an additional $300 or more.

    • Re:The Software (Score:5, Informative)

      by thebosz (748870) <(moc.liamg) (ta) (zsobeht)> on Thursday January 19, 2006 @06:13PM (#14513613) Homepage Journal
      If you'd like a free PVR, I personally like GB-PVR [gbpvr.com]. It can handle as many tuners as your machine can handle plus it has a bunch of additional features. Beyond TV, Sage TV and Microsoft MCE all cost money, but none of them do anything that GB-PVR can't.

      It's not open source, unfortunately, but has a very active development guy and a very good plug-in architecture.

      My PVR is an AMD Sempron 2200+ with 768MB RAM, 360GB Hard drive space, two Hauppauge tuners (250 and 150-MCE) running in a small case on a Chaintech 7NIF2 board running Win2000. Everything works flawlessly and my wife loves it! She records all her shows and watches them whenever she wants. I've got about half of our DVD collection ripped and converted to Xvid sitting on there, ready to go (those discs aren't getting anywhere near the kids!) and everything is awesome.

      When we move into our house, I'm going to run network through the walls and have a Hauppauge Media MVP [hauppauge.com] as a small, quiet front-end in the bedroom.

      The PVR itself is fairly noisy, but when the TV's on, you can't hear it so it doesn't really matter. When I do an upgrade, I might get another MVP and put the main server into the closet.

      I originally tried MythTV (using KnoppMyth [mysettopbox.tv]), but after a week of hassle and wrestling with it, I gave up and tried GB-PVR. I haven't tried MythTV since. I'd like to have only open-source, free software running, but I couldn't get it to work. I hope to be able to switch over in the future, but for right now, we're quite happy.

  • Fan failure? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by WhiteWolf666 (145211) <sherwin&amiran,us> on Thursday January 19, 2006 @05:44PM (#14513350) Homepage Journal
    That's a whole lot of heating being generated. Exhaust fan failure=lots of dead harddrives?

    What about heat on the TV tuners? Or the video card?

    Methinks one would be much better serviced by a rack of systems, this thing would run WAY too hot.
    • Methinks one would be much better serviced by a rack of systems, this thing would run WAY too hot.

      You still run into heat issues even with racks. But I agree, split it up into a HD rack, and a pvr rack, and you'll likely avoid much of the heat issues they're having.

      Of course, in rackmount you don't have a whole lot of room to work with, and I don't know how possible it would be to get the four PCIe cards into a rackmount system.
  • I always love to hear about stuff like this. However, good luck finding enough content worth recording. I have a PVR with 1 tuner and I struggle for stuff to record. Most of TV is crap except for Battlestar Galactica of course and Family Guy :)

    http://religiousfreaks.com/ [religiousfreaks.com]
    • Not to mention the fact that it can record more tv than it is physically possible to actually watch.
    • However, good luck finding enough content worth recording. I have a PVR with 1 tuner and I struggle for stuff to record.

      My Media Center PC has one tuner also, and I run into about a dozen schedule conflicts per week. Most of the time it's not important, since one or the other of the conflicting shows is likely to be rebroadcast soon afterward at a time when it doesn't conflict with anything else.

      Having more than three tuners in a PVR just doesn't seem practical to me, unless it's for an appliance that's go
  • Mine is bigger (Score:4, Interesting)

    by killercoder (874746) on Thursday January 19, 2006 @05:45PM (#14513363)
    My Setup:

    2.6 Terrabytes of Disk Space (2x Raid 5 array's in 2x chassis').
    6 Tuners - 2 SDTV, 2 HDTV, 2 Digital Cable (QAM256)

    MythTV is very powerful, supports alot of tuners, and ALOT of folks out there have small-to-large setup's. 2005 was the year of the PVR - this article is simply a mine is bigger statement that can't be backed up.
  • Heh (Score:4, Interesting)

    by aftk2 (556992) on Thursday January 19, 2006 @05:45PM (#14513369) Homepage Journal
    While this is mostly a solution in search of a problem, it would be kind of cool to have in a dorm room environment. You could install it, and then have some sort of signup process through which users reserve specific chunks of time, for their various shows. While it's doubtful that one person would ever want to watch 11 programs that were on simultaneously, 11 different people might.
  • It's a giant ad! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rsborg (111459) on Thursday January 19, 2006 @05:47PM (#14513384) Homepage
    Ok, absurdity of 11 tuners aside, I noticed some serious warning signs that this project really didn't seem all that well thought out, and instead seems like a huge AD for beyondTV, Intel, and pretty much all the "high end" components you need for your media center type beast.

    "Heat is the biggest enemy when building a quiet HTPC system. "
    Uh... sure. Agreed.

    "You have to sometimes sacrifice a quiet HTPC so the machine can cool itself efficiently. "
    Hmm... so it supposed to be quiet, but not really.

    "We choose the Intel Pentium D 840 "Extreme Edition" Processor!"
    Ok, quiet is RIGHT OUT now, and what a way to add to your heat problem :-)

    "While trying to push the Godzilla PVR to its limit we experienced an overheating and fan noise issue. "
    LOL. Stopped reading right about there.

  • by IAAP (937607)
    make popcorn! And then, get a soda machine or beer keg, catheter for, well, you know and...voila! The ULTIMATE home enterainment system.
  • Mirrors (Score:3, Informative)

    by alexhs (877055) on Thursday January 19, 2006 @05:48PM (#14513391) Homepage Journal
    Blog already slow (database connection error at first try), following mirrors had time to do their job :
    MirrorDot [mirrordot.org]
    and nyud.net [nyud.net]
  • I would add a decent remote control, like the Logitech Harmony 890 [logitech.com] for about $400 (that's right!), merely 10% of the total cost. ;-)
  • Slashdotted (Score:5, Funny)

    by c0d3h4x0r (604141) on Thursday January 19, 2006 @05:52PM (#14513434) Homepage Journal
    Too bad they didn't build the Godzilla of Servers to go with it.
  • I have a dual tuner PVR (Dish Network 522) and am really happy with it. I have yet to run into an issue where I want to record three programs at once. Do I just not watch enough TV or do these people watch WAY to much?
    • Do I just not watch enough TV or do these people watch WAY to much?

      They're probably just married.
    • Do I just not watch enough TV or do these people watch WAY to much?

      No, they probably don't watch much more than you.
      They just have small penises, that's all.

      :-P
  • by Duncan3 (10537)
    We have a new winner...

    The old king was a 45 year old 350lb man who spent his days in his parents basement watching porn and playing WoW pretending to be a 16 year old girl.

    But these guys that built an 11 tuner PVR becasue they just couldnt get enough porn blow right past 11 on the loser scale.

    Please find your nearest suicide booth, ASAP.
  • by heatdeath (217147) on Thursday January 19, 2006 @06:01PM (#14513492)
    I used to live in a house with 7 people, and we had a DVR that had 2 tuners. (so, you could record on one, and watch on the other)

    Occasionally we would have conflicts with someone recording a movie during a regularly recorded TV show, and someone else was bored and wanted to surf channels - but even with 7 people, 3 or 4 tuners definitely would have done it. 11 is so overkill it's not even funny.

    However...technology for technology's sake, I suppose.
  • Mmmmm, the blog server smells like burning.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 19, 2006 @06:03PM (#14513518)
    I don't get this geeky thing where you'll spend godawful amounts of money on hardware (and create a huge electricity bill and cooling problem to boot) but take a hissy fit about paying for a DVD or a CD you want to enjoy. It reminds me of clients my law firm had who'd spend gobs of money for us to fight their personal tax assessments.

    At $15 each, you could buy 285 DVDs. I can guarantee that when you pay for entertainment you're a lot more choosy about what you watch. It reminds me of software pirates who spend so much time and energy collecting software (or porn fanatics, too, I guess) but never actually enjoy what they've collected.
    • Or better yet, you could have 8 at a time unlimited rentals from netflix for about 87 months... and I doubt that this hardware will last long enough to survive that long without replacement, not to mention its electricity bill!
    • I don't get this geeky thing where you'll spend godawful amounts of money on hardware (and create a huge electricity bill and cooling problem to boot) but take a hissy fit about paying for a DVD or a CD you want to enjoy.

      Hardware is sold for about what it cost to make. I can get a blank CD for 20p, yet I don't see music CDs being sold for anything like that.

      It reminds me of software pirates who spend so much time and energy collecting software (or porn fanatics, too, I guess) but never actually enjoy wh

    • I'll pay for DVDs. I've bought lots of them. I just wish I could get them all into a single player so that I can choose a DVD to watch as easily as I pick a show off of my Tivo Now Showing menu. I haven't yet been able to get Mythtv or anything else to do that.

    • Yeah, doesn't make too much sense to me. If you use all 11 TV-tuners at once, are you actually gonna be able to watch everything you record???? I don't have cable, and I don't think I even get that many channels.

      And the electricity bill, oof. I don't think a lot of people realize how much energy a computer uses. A typical desktop PC, idling, uses 150-200 W. That's like 2-3 typical incandescent bulbs or 8-12 typical compact fluorescent bulbs. Not so good for your wallet, or for the environment.

      What do
    • "I don't get this geeky thing where you'll spend godawful amounts of money on hardware (and create a huge electricity bill and cooling problem to boot) "

      Nerds have been doing that for ever. It's what they enjoy. How much money do you spend on your hobby?

      How much on golf?

      "but take a hissy fit about paying for a DVD or a CD you want to enjoy."

      Seperate issues. This is not about the money. If you don't understand that, I got to ask:
      What the hell are you doing here?

  • Is there any place where someone can buy a 250GB hard drive that is pre-loaded with movies or Simpsons episodes? If not, then maybe I should start a little black market business...
  • Well congrats to him, he must have some serious talent and patience. (Coming from a fairly technically savvy person who spent a whole day gettng LIRC to work with a Dish Network receiver on MythTv. Sigh...)
  • 11 Tuners? Why? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Pedrito (94783) on Thursday January 19, 2006 @06:34PM (#14513808) Homepage
    I have a two-tuner TiVo with my DirecTV. I record TONS of movies. Most of it I capture and write DVD. I very rarely have a conflict where I'm trying to record more than 2 things at once, and even when it has happened, I've always been able to find at least one alternate time among the three movies to reschedule one. 3 tuners, and I'd NEVER run into the problem. 11 tuners? Who the fuck needs 11 tuners? Sorry, but this article goes into my "Waste of time and money" bin.


  • Build Your Own PVR Community Site [byopvr.com] for news, reviews, howto, tips, and forum.

    also see HTPCnews [htpcnews.com] as well.

  • Maybe if they hosted the blog on the PVR, the blog would still be up.
  • O.K. Although, I agree with the folks that state that this just didn't seem well thought out, I have an app that could make use of more than 11+ video capture streams. Home security. During Christmas, I signed up for some "home automation" catalogs. I don't buy any of the stuff because its way out of my price range, but I was startled to find some cool things listed. Apparently several companies are selling a 4 camera setup, with 80 GB HD PVR for I think somewhere $1500-2000 for home security. They said tha
  • At the other end of the spectrum, I FINALLY got a compatible LC08 case from Silverstone (it was a show demo unit I begged and pleaded to purchase -- lead time for "real" ones is about 4 weeks) for my nanoITX mobo, and put it together last night. Took lots of pictures (including showing the diffs between the old and new LC08 case), and plan to write something up and post it online.

    FC3 and Lindows run fine on it, but I have to get the accelerated CN400 (H/W HD MPEG2 decoding) drivers, and build MythTV for i

  • DIgital Cable, (Score:2, Insightful)

    by u16084 (832406)
    Did I miss something about the Digital Cable issue?
    In My area, TWC mirrors 95% of the analog channels on the digital tier.
    So in order to get my Dig channels i would have have 11 Dig boxes?
    Sure everytime you split the cable you lose 3.5 to 7db depending on which leg of the splitter you branch off, nothing a Cable Amplifier cant fix, digital channels are fine to about -15db to -20db, what im wondering is where the Cable Card support?
  • Godzilla... (Score:3, Funny)

    by Cryptnotic (154382) * on Thursday January 19, 2006 @07:23PM (#14514193) Homepage
    ...meet Slashdot.

  • During testing, the PVR had an issues with audio/video sync. Both audio and video were working, but the test movie which contained screams of frightened Japanese never matched up. They're still working on the issue.

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