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The Mini-ITX Linux PVR Project 223

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the stuff-to-hack-on dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Home theater PCs have taken many shapes and forms, perhaps none more interesting than this Mini-ITX PVR. In part three of its Mini-ITX project, XYZ Computing has turned its Mini-ITX box into a Linux PVR, using Ubuntu and MythTV. This is a lot of computer in a very small package and designing it, putting it together, and then getting it to work was an interesting process. The article is a great guide for people who are interested in their own Mini-ITX Linux PVR, but also goes over the problems and pitfalls of a build like this."
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The Mini-ITX Linux PVR Project

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  • One line summary (Score:5, Interesting)

    by fak3r (917687) on Wednesday March 22, 2006 @12:39PM (#14972402) Homepage
    It works, it's cool, just kind of a pain to build and more expensive than he wanted, but the DIY attraction and avoidance of fees make this an overall posititve experience for him. I'm still waiting for a distro that "just works" with a default PC you can buy, after throwing in a Haupage TV card. Plug in, boot from cdrom, try it out, like it, install it on HD...done. Is there such a thing yet, or should I wait for PVRuntu?
    • by tpgp (48001) on Wednesday March 22, 2006 @12:46PM (#14972462) Homepage
      Is there such a thing yet, or should I wait for PVRuntu?

      Knopmyth [mysettopbox.tv]
      • That looks perfect! Why hadn't I heard of this earlier? With those constant Dell 399$ desktop specials (and you could sell the flat panel later to recoupe even more) and a WinTV-dbx, model 401 (~72$ via Froogle) you can be all set! Hmmm...must think about this, thanks for the link!
        • I don't know about that card but nearly any Hauppauge PVR x50 card will work. Currently I'm working on getting it to use the firewire connection to my Motorola 62xx DVR, it will tune but the osd is in black and white and it has some other little issues. Coming along nicely otherwise. If I tune over analog cable it's perfect.
        • Dell is currently selling a computer for $249 Canadian, sans monitor, but you you trouble finding a refurb that cheap in this country.
      • According the the web site you linked to -

        " What is KnoppMyth?

        * Short Answer: KnoppMyth is Knoppix optimized for MythTV.
        * Long Answer: Our vision is a distribution that makes it trivial to setup a set-top box.
        We've included everything that believe is needing to reach this goal.
        And, in fact, the developers use this distribution on their own PVR's.

        What is Knoppix?

        * See http://www.knopper.net/knoppix/index-en.html [knopper.net]

        What is MythTV?

        * See http://mythtv.org/ [mythtv.org]
        Cool! So do

      • Doesn't this still require users to install something on HDD? I was expecting this be a LiveCD that doesn't need any installations. The only thing on HDD is to access videos.
    • by TobyWong (168498)
      KnoppMyth gets pretty close to what you are describing:

      http://mysettopbox.tv/knoppmyth.html [mysettopbox.tv]

      It's not perfect but it's close to out-of-the-box.

      It helps if you are careful when selecting your hardware to make sure it is well supported ahead of time (hauppauge is a good call).
    • Check out epiOS (Score:2, Informative)

      by Palle04 (962875)
      It comes with all the drivers you need for your Epia mainboards:

      Some impressions:

      http://www.epiacenter.com/modules.php?name=Content &pa=showpage&pid=82&page=6 [epiacenter.com]

      The epiOS support forums:

      http://www.epios.net/ [epios.net]

      A lot of users already combined it with MythTV.
    • You can try KnoppMyth, which others have suggested, but be aware it isn't quite the silver bullet. Check out LWN's recent brief write up on MythTV and KnoppMyth in their March 9th weekly [lwn.net].

      It is fair to note he also had the HD3000 card working as well. Ultimately, he went with Fedora Core 4 because of the great documentation.

    • As mentioned there is Knoppmyth.

      Personally, i installed ubuntu on a VIA EPIA mini-ITX board, and grabbed the precompiled .deb packages linked from the myth site.

      I had a Kworld DVB TV card [ebuyer.com] the cheapest i could find, and it just worked. zero setup for the card, just had to get myth to scan for channels (just like when you get a new TV).

      Presumably knopmyth does more than save you 5mins selecting and installing the myth .debs?
    • Yes there is a distro you can do this with - Knoppmyth [mysettopbox.tv].

      And by the way - this topic sounds very exciting, but lots of people are running myth on quiet EPIA mobos. Check out mythtv's hardware database [goldfish.org]. Its not new or even hard.

      1. Buy mobo, case, HDD, encoder card, DVD. Or buy one [directron.com] of [silentpcreview.com] these [tranquilpc.co.uk] pre-built ones
      2. Plug it all in.
      3. Insert knoppmyth CD.
      4. install
      5. ???
      6. profit... errr... I mean watch TV.

  • by EggyToast (858951) on Wednesday March 22, 2006 @12:44PM (#14972445) Homepage
    My girlfriend's got a mac mini that's utterly silent... until you put a CD or DVD in. Then the motors whir up and the laser jumps around and it's almost obnoxious! Since the article only talks about "quiet" in a general sense, it doesn't seem like he paid much attention to the use of disc media -- rather, he focused on HDD noise and fan noise. While important, I know plenty of people will use such a device to rip CDs to, watch DVDs on, and so on. Myself included.

    Otherwise it's a pretty neat little thing, and seems to work well w/o much hassle. I'm still skeptical of those slimline DVD drives in media computers, though...

    • You have 2 alternatives for avoiding media noise on a Mac mini (or a G5 tower, which also makes a racket when spinning up disks), and neither is perfect:

      1. Archive all DVD's on hard drives in another room. (That's what I do, not just to avoid the noise... Having my media library archived like this is pretty sweet in general.) On OS X, Mac the Ripper is probably the best tool. (Make sure to get a hold of the version 3 beta to get around newer DVD copy protection schemes.)

      2. Plug a big external DVD drive,
    • I know how you feel - mine is also loud as hell when it starts spinning up. I don't remember the programs name, but I do remember a utility that was made to limit CD-drives to 24x (I think that was the speed at which the disc's started to shake), which made them almost silent.

      Just limit the dvd-speed to something similar - if you're just watching a dvd movie you don't really need it to read at 16x - 2x is plenty fast.
    • Rip, and then you don't need to worry about the drive when you're actually watching/playing. Or stream over the network from the drive upstairs.
  • Alternative (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Golias (176380) on Wednesday March 22, 2006 @12:44PM (#14972450)
    MythTV is very impressive, but not everybody wants to spend their weekend building a box from scratch and installing an OS on it.

    Here's a (slightly more expensive) alternative for non-geeks:

    1. Buy a Mac Mini

    2. Plug a USB2 or Firewire tuner and the Keyspan USB remote sensor into it.

    3. Install EyeTV software & Keyspan remote software (both included with the hardware.)

    4. Set up your universal remote (your TV and/or receiver remote might be a programmable one. Otherwise there are plenty out there to choose from for about twenty bucks) to control both the TV tuner and all your Mac media apps.

    Done.


    • 1. Buy a Mac Mini

      2. Plug a USB2 or Firewire tuner and the Keyspan USB remote sensor into it.

      3. Install EyeTV software & Keyspan remote software (both included with the hardware.)

      4. Set up your universal remote (your TV and/or receiver remote might be a programmable one. Otherwise there are plenty out there to choose from for about twenty bucks) to control both the TV tuner and all your Mac media apps.


      5. Watch as your new HiDef movies run incredibly slow and jumpy, with dialogue out of sync with the pic
    • Alternate solution:

      1) Pick any formfactor x86 PC you want, from small to "I have this obnoxious beige box hanging around";

      2) Install a tuner -- USB, firewire or PCI

      3) KnoppMyth (http://mysettopbox.tv/knoppmyth.html [mysettopbox.tv])
      3a) $4.99 from CheapBytes if you don't want to download and burn an .iso (http://shop.cheapbytes.com/cgi-bin/cart/007001102 5.html [cheapbytes.com])

      4) Set up your universal remote

      Done.
    • Here's a (slightly more expensive) alternative for non-geeks:

      1. Buy a Mac Mini


      Sorry - your 'alternative' is a solution looking for a problem.

      1) Your solution is a good deal more expensive then your post makes out - for instance if you want to burn to CD/DVD using EyeTv you have to purchase [elgato.com] roxio toast (and that is not the only hidden cost)

      2) MythTV gives you Mame, VOIP, Weather, Web, Gallery & music player all-in-one. Mac Mini solution does not.

      3) If you really want an easy solution, rather then a look-
      • 1. Why would I ever want to put a TV show on to a DVD? Hard drives cost less per GB than blank DL-DVDs do.

        2. You can do all of that on a mini, either with free software or stuff that comes with the OS, but again, why would I want "weather" on my TV box, especially when THREE of the HD channels in my broadcast market are nothing but weather radar?

        3. There's a lot of nice features the mini has which every PVR on the market lacks, including several you claimed, falsely, to be exlcusive to a MythTV solution.

        Bu
        • 1. Why would I ever want to put a TV show on to a DVD? Hard drives cost less per GB than blank DL-DVDs do.

          Errr, right.

          For starters, it's easier to buy DVD-Rs then upgrade a hdd and secondly, what you say is false. Blank DVD's are about 20c each, roughly 5c/GB. Upgrading [apple.com] a Mac Mini (we are still talking about these right?) from the standard 60GB to 120GB will cost you $175. That works out at 35c/GB.

          2. You can do all of that on a mini, either with free software or stuff that comes with the OS, but again, why
          • For starters, it's easier to buy DVD-Rs then upgrade a hdd and secondly, what you say is false. Blank DVD's are about 20c each, roughly 5c/GB. Upgrading a Mac Mini (we are still talking about these right?) from the standard 60GB to 120GB will cost you $175. That works out at 35c/GB.

            Please show me where I can get DL DVD's for 20c each. (Single-layer DVD's won't cut it, as they can't store enough HD video for many shows.)

            I've got a stack of EXTERNAL hard drives in my basement connected by a long Firewire cha
            • You tell me, who's the fanboy here? Take a closer look at your behavior and answer again.

              Hmmmmn, I think you're getting snarky at the wrong person. I never mentioned fanboy. Maybe you should slow down, chill out & reread the thread, slower.

              To answer your question however:

              Both of us.

              Anyway, to answer your post in a general way. You don't need dl-dvd's to backup, just two sls. I'm sure you can find some (remote control scriptable, nice clear text) software to do just that.

              You go on to accuse me of poor co
              • My comprehension? I read that to mean that I claimed (falsely) some features were exclusive to MythTV.

                You did. You said the mini solution left out the ability to get stuff like weather, web browsing, etc. as an integrated solution.

                Those things are integrated on the Mac, just at the OS level rather than in an application shell.

      • 2) MythTV gives you Mame, VOIP, Weather, Web, Gallery & music player all-in-one. Mac Mini solution does not.


        Sorry for the double-post, but this point is particularilly vexing.

        iTunes is a kick-ass music player (and very remote-scriptable).

        Safari is a nice browser, but plenty of 'zilla flavored options are available and free as well.

        5-day forcasting is a dashboard widget which comes with the OS by default.

        By "Gallery" I take it you mean a way to view pitcures. Gosh, if only there was a way to do that! *
        • Do yo ever use your mini as a PVR?

          All those things you mention (are great apps, but) don't integrate into a PVR type setup (with large, high contrast text, full screen, remote operation, etc etc) without alot (a weekend's worth?) of effort.

          WoW is a good example for you to use however, it is something of interest to many people, and wanting to play it is a good reason to choose a mini or windows media center (or whatever its called) over mythTV.

          And again, I'm not saying that a Mac mini, for all people and al
          • Do yo ever use your mini as a PVR?

            I used to. Then I got a sweetheart deal on a dual-G5 tower, which handles HDTV much better than the G4 mini did, and put the mini into a music studio rackmount to spend the rest of its days as an audio signal processor.

            All those things you mention (are great apps, but) don't integrate into a PVR type setup (with large, high contrast text, full screen, remote operation, etc etc) without alot (a weekend's worth?) of effort.

            Almost zero effort. The Keyspan remote control com
          • The article we're discussing features a black case (not a particularly attractive one mind you). My mini-itx (which predates the mac mini) is in a black box too. The mini is closer in color to the beige-box you mention.

            "Beige box" is a common expression referring to commodity PC systems, particularilly home-brew ones. Almost none of them are actually beige in color anymore. White and black seem to be the most popular choices.

            (Although most of my Linux and/or Windows boxes were beige, because I would alway
            • I just can't bring myself to spend money on a simple metal box when I can avoid it

              Quoth the Mac fan :-)

              Now I know you're trolling... very amusing however - nicely played.
              • I'm not a Mac "fan", I'm a Mac "user."

                I've owned many, many PC systems over the years. I've recently abandoned all but my company-owned work systems in favor of 4 Macs.

                1. A G5 tower drives my media room.
                2. A first-gen Mac mini is the swiss-army knife solution of my music studio.
                3. I use an iBook for almost everything else I do.
                4. An eMac... is collecting dust in my basement, other than serving up a web site that I no longer really care about. I should probably sell it along with my old Windows game PC.

                (I
          • But you did imply it was an easier alternative with: "...to spend their weekend building a box from scratch...", but its not easier - not to get a full featured PVR.

            Except it is easier. Vastly easier.

            For starters, the system is already built.

            Secondly, the OS is already installed.

            Thirdly, installing the PVR app is a simple "drag the application which came with the tuner into the applications folder" procedure.

            Finally, the only configuration to be done is to auto-tune your local stations, set up a TitanTV lo
  • by From A Far Away Land (930780) on Wednesday March 22, 2006 @12:48PM (#14972489) Homepage Journal
    " Mini-ITX Part III

    Wednesday, 22 March 2006
    Page 1 of 7

    By: Sal Cangeloso

    For the past few months I have been spending a lot of time using my Mini-ITX computer. This was originally a project system which I put together so that I would have something small and silent for my living room, on which I could do a few very basic tasks, like check my email and get on the internet. The first part of the project featured a system which booted Puppy Linux off of a flash USB drive, a solution which was simple and quiet, but not very powerful. In the second part of the project the system was given a new case, improved cooling, and it booted off of a LiveCD and could save to a CF card. As I used the system more I decided the best course of action would be to make a few more changes and increase the system's functionality, despite the impact that this could have on its silent operation.

    This time I had some big plans in store for the Mini-ITX box. The plans were, roughly, to install a hard drive, move to a more powerful Linux distribution, and add PVR capabilites to the system. Because the computer was already situated in my living room, making it into a personal video recorder was an obvious choice, though doing this on a Mini-ITX Linux system would surely take a bit of finesse. "
    -----

    I wish that they said what "ITX" means.

        PVR is Personal Video Recorder which describes a digital device like a TIVO or MythTV software for a computer system with TV input.
    I've used an All In Wonder 8500DV to record TV onto my computer, but my biggest roadblock has been poor ATI drivers for Windows that disabled Hibernation, crashes XP, and fails to work well in Linux even as a video card never mind as a TV system.
    • I've used an All In Wonder 8500DV to record TV onto my computer, but my biggest roadblock has been poor ATI drivers for Windows that disabled Hibernation, crashes XP, and fails to work well in Linux even as a video card never mind as a TV system.

      I wouldn't recommend ATI on linux at all at this point. The drivers are barely even useable, let alone give good performance.

      My bit of advice, if you're buying a video card for a linux PVR, stay far, far away from ATI. You'll thank me for saving you from countless h
    • I wish that they said what "ITX" means.

      ITX is nothing more than a form factor. Usually the form factors dictate how the board mounts the chassis, how things get cooled, and how it gets power. Lots of standards - btx, at, etc... this is juts another.

      Take an ATX case, look at the four mounting holes and you have how the board screws into the case - more or less ITX in a nutshell. ITX is just a bit larger than a square built out of RAM sticks. Bog standard ATX power supply, keyboard, mouse, and other ports
    • "I wish that they said what "ITX" means."

      ITX is a form-factor just like ATX is a form-factor. It simply determines the size of the board and where mounting holes should be etc... This way case manufacturers can make a case for ITX boards that should (theoretically) fit all ITX sized boards.
  • I was reading the article but couldn't find a price before it got slashdotted.

    But I think this will cost at least a few hunderd. Then why not just use a provider who offers video on demand, you might need to pay a euro per show but that would be hunders of shows before you spend the same amount. Maybe if you watch several recorded shows a day it might be usefull but I think most people (me atleast) dont watch that much.
  • by dtsazza (956120)
    ...but aren't Mini-ITX boxes the usual form factor for MythTV implementations? If you're (typically) going to have a PVR in your living room, you'll want something that's low-power, quiet and preferably quite small.

    Don't get me wrong, the article's a good one, but it seems like the focus of the summary is "They have MythTV on MiniITX now" - haven't we been doing this for months, if not years?
    • ...but aren't Mini-ITX boxes the usual form factor for MythTV implementations? If you're (typically) going to have a PVR in your living room, you'll want something that's low-power, quiet and preferably quite small.

      I completely understand why quiet is important, but I don't really understand why it needs to be small. Most people that I know have quite a bit of room in the entertainment centers. Even if you don't, you might even be able to hide the box away behind the TV. The only thing that needs to

      • by lakeland (218447)
        Disclaimer: I sell mythtv boxes

        Most people want a pretty box, and many of the mini ITX cases meet that description. I think the mATX is quite small enough, but standard ATX just looks bulky. The last one I built used a Silverstone LC11M and I would say that's borderline too big.

        500MHz - 1GHz is arguably a little slow, especially for the OSD. If you're recording a lot of TV, you might not be able to transcode overnight with that CPU either. I tend to use a 754-based sempron which is overkill but offers n
  • by realkiwi (23584)
    If you want to cool a small case you need to get rid of those flat IDE cables that restrict air flow.

    P.S. VDR is a much better solution than Myth in countries with DVB-S and DVB-T.
    • I tried Myth TV with a DVB-T card around a year ago. I got it working, but had to kludge together a system to grab automatic updates to the EPG that gets broadcast as part of the data stream in the UK and insert that into the main EPG database periodically.

      The main problems were that the picture quality sent to a TV was no where near as good as a standard DVB-T decoder, that there was no support for the MHEG teletext system used exclusively in the UK, and the noise made by the machine was unbearably loud. I
  • by thelost (808451) on Wednesday March 22, 2006 @12:51PM (#14972520) Journal
    can already feel the site crawling so made a pre-emtive corach cache [nyud.net]. Use that if you can!
  • by Se7enLC (714730) on Wednesday March 22, 2006 @12:56PM (#14972567) Homepage Journal

    The major difference between the PVR-350 and the PVR-250/150 is that the 350 has video output (MPEG2 decompression). Seeing as the board he selected has video out built in (and a processor that is plenty-capable enough), the PVR-350 was an unnecessary added expense. Also, the PVR-350 is slow at outputting X-menus, cannot do OpenGL or any acceleration except for MPEG2, DVD decoding is slow, games won't work, etc. Basically, the PVR-350 is useful ONLY for MPEG2 TV output.

    ALSO - the current stable version of MythTV (0.19) has a bug where fast forwarding and rewinding greater than 3X don't work properly. There is no timeframe for fixing the bug, as not all that many people are using the 350.

    A better choice would have been to get a PVR-500 to get dual-tuners, or at least a MCE version of the 150 (take up less space in the teeny case) and use the onboard SVideo out (or VGA out converted).
    • I thought that was an odd choice, considering that the EPIA MII 10000 already has on-board video with MPEG-2 acceleration which is fairly well supported under X. Considering that the 350 costs roughly twice as much as the 150, with buying decisions like that it's no wonder that he went way over budget.
    • Any analogue only tuner card is a bad idea, because all TV is going to be switched to digital sooner than you think. Here in the UK, they start turning off the analogue signal next year, but I've been receiving digital broadcasts for over 2 years now. I don't think it's worth spending money on something that will be obsolete in less than 2 years. My Hauppage WinTV USB DVB tuner works pretty well, if I had a better signal it would be perfect.
      • Not to worry, it'll take much longer here in the US. We don't have things like "standards" for digital TV. We have digital cable and satellite providers that would cry if we made them standardize their set top boxes (I hear in the UK you don't need cable boxes at all?).

        Even with digital cable and satellite, you can still use an analog tuner to record TV. I personally use a serial cable to change channels on the STB and an SVideo cable to feed the video signal to the input on my PVR. I've heard of many peopl
  • by Programmer_In_Traini (566499) on Wednesday March 22, 2006 @12:56PM (#14972569)
    I've been meaning to build the mythtv/ubuntu combo like the article says but because im a windows fart, its taking me a lot of time to simply build the box and understand it enough to fine tune it.

    So what i did in the meanwhile is installing my hauppauge 350 on my own PC, a winxp box, with GB_PVR) http://www.gbpvr.com/ [gbpvr.com]. Its free, its windows-based (.net) and it works great. As far as i understand from it, its the closest thing to mythTv on the win platform.

    in fact, it work so nicely that i dont even feel the rush of building my ubuntu pvr.
  • by zerojoker (812874) on Wednesday March 22, 2006 @12:57PM (#14972582)
    I've tried to build exactly such a system. However my experience was not that positive.

    As it is already mentioned in the article, you pay a decent premium for the small size. But that's not the main issue. The biggest problem is cooling. Sure the EPIA processors are quite tolerant, but for a media center silence is the main issue. The cooling fan, 40x40mm is non-standard as is the whole cooling unit. So you can't buy one of the many excellent standard silent coolers.
    He replaced it with a custom 40mm fan, but I personally highly doubt that it is really silent with 3000rpm. Plus one has also to consider the airflow compared to the original fan. When I built my system, I was unable to find a similar fan with the same airflow, even considering Papst and Verax.
    Another thing is, that the 1GHz CPU is really slow. I ran into problem when playing DivX or XVid movies. Then under Linux (at least at the time I was building the system, dunno where they are at this point) there were no drivers for the Hardware-MPEG2 accelerator, so DVD playbay wasn't possible.


    My conculsion is: If you go for MicroATX instead, you'll have just a slightly bigger case, however Standard components. There are zillion of cheap, reliable and silent CPU coolers, Power Supplies etc. Plus any decent CPU, even a Pentium III 1 GHz is faster than this VIA processor.
    • Another thing is, that the 1GHz CPU is really slow. I ran into problem when playing DivX or XVid movies.

      My 933 Crusoe based laptop has been able to play 640x480 mpeg4 videos fullscreen under Linux for the 3+ years I have had it. I regularly watch 640x272(ish) videos on my laptop streamed over ssh (using the sshfs FUSE module) over my 802.11b network. That gives me a double encryption wammy, since my wireless driver does WEP in software.

      My girlfriend's P3 700 laptop can do the same just fine. She al

    • Another thing is, that the 1GHz CPU is really slow. I ran into problem when playing DivX or XVid movies. Then under Linux (at least at the time I was building the system, dunno where they are at this point) there were no drivers for the Hardware-MPEG2 accelerator, so DVD playbay wasn't possible.

      Strange... my EPIA MII, 1 GHz Nehemiah plays DivX, Xvid, DVD, you name it, just fine without using the MPEG2 acceleration. The only hardware acceleration is XVideo for fullscreen scaling. It probably helps that I

  • I priced out one of these systems, but it was cheaper to buy a Dish Network PVR508 off E*Bay ($180). Its disk is a little small, but unlike newer PVRs from Dish, there are no monthly fees. Plus, it's nicely integrated into the Dish channel guide.
  • Why not using epiOS? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Palle04 (962875) on Wednesday March 22, 2006 @12:59PM (#14972600)
    There is already a special Linux OS for the Epia mainboards. Some impressions can be found here:

    http://www.epiacenter.com/modules.php?name=Content &pa=showpage&pid=82&page=6 [epiacenter.com]
  • PVRs Dead? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by u16084 (832406)
    With Digital Cable - Dominating in my area, all these PVRs are "useless" (for the typical home user) . TWC in my area mirrors EVERY single analog channel on to their digital tier. Channel 4 - 804 Channel 9 - 809 etc etc. They are also limiting HBO (no longer available on ANALOG) - they require you to get a dig box. So Untill CableCard support is implemented, its just a waste of time, no?. (Again TWC in my area Leases CableCards for 1.95/month each. (if i recall corretly). I DONT work for them. They also of
    • I use MythTV with my satellite tuner. I just have an IR blaster to change the channels and a USB video capture device to save the video. Works great.
    • It's not a big deal for SDTV. You just use the analog ouput of the cable box and digitize it just like you would with analog cable. You have to use a serial cable or IR blaster to control the cable box, which can be a pain, and it means you have to have multiple cable boxes to record multiple digital cable channels.

      It is a big deal for HDTV. You can use a QAM tuner to record the raw bitstream off of digital cable, but they generally encrypt everything except the broadcast channels. Comcast even encrypts
    • You are right about this, and this is what I have been thinking: why bother with the cable feeds at all?

      Part of my issue, when or if I get around to building my "PVR" (not really going to be a PVR as such, since it won't have a video input), is the fact that I have a bunch of old hardware that doesn't have the power to digitize video (I am planning on using an old BookPC box). I figure if that works out well (ie, I can get it to do what I want, and it is very easy to use), then I might upgrade to a real set

  • by Abalamahalamatandra (639919) on Wednesday March 22, 2006 @01:14PM (#14972747)
    Unless you're not going to be very demanding on the system (i.e. actually use the best features), I wouldn't recommend using a Mini-ITX board for the main system.

    One of the big advantages of Myth is its support for transcoding the recordings after they're done, removing commercials automatically, and archiving them to, say, DivX or XviD format. You're not going to be doing that with a 1 GHZ processor on a Mini ITX board.

    Much better to get a real box for the backend, which does the recording, and network it to the Mini ITX box to use as the frontend, which runs the user interface.

    Personally, I got sick of seeing my 2.8 GHZ P4 Hyperthreaded Sony desktop being used as the family web browser/email machine (such a waste!) so I replaced it with a nice little 2.4 GHZ Compaq EVO from Ebay and am building Myth 0.19 on Ubuntu on the Sony. It's big, it has space for two hard drives, it has a DVD burner and a CDROM drive built in, and it's SILENT, even when running 3+ hour video reencoding jobs at 100% CPU. Got a 300 GB Samsung drive for it, with room for another before I need to go external.

    Today my PVR-350 comes, so that'll get me really going on the build. I'll try and use its video output, but I'm starting to see a lot of limitations with that, as the author mentions. I may get a cheap NVidea card with TV out instead. But the PVR-350's are the same price, if not cheaper, as the 250's right now, so why not get one?

    Next thing to check out is getting a cable box with Firewire output from Comcast to record some HDTV on, even though I only have a standard TV. Supposedly they're required by the FCC to give me a box with Firewire that outputs at least all "must carry" (read: local broadcast) stations unencrypted, we'll see.

    I currently have a Panasonic Showstopper (also known as a ReplayTV first generation) which has worked well for going on five years, but the Myth user interface simply blows it out of the water - killer searching and recording options, a remote REAL-TIME web interface (Replay has one, but the box only dials up once a night - wanna record something now when you're at work, you're out of luck). Plus weather, RSS, and a general video storage area that will also mean I can move my XBox running XBox Media Center to another room.

    Once this is all happy, I may look into getting some Mini-ITX boxes with monitors for the kids' rooms and load Ubuntu on them - voila, web surfing and email that I can control and monitor, and Myth frontend machines for them to watch shows on, which I can also monitor.

    Geek family nirvana!
    • One of the big advantages of Myth is its support for transcoding the recordings after they're done, removing commercials automatically, and archiving them to, say, DivX or XviD format. You're not going to be doing that with a 1 GHZ processor on a Mini ITX board.

      Is that really one of the big advantages? Because I've wanted to do that and it's the main reason I started messing around with MythTV years ago, but I've never found any clear documentation on how to do it and I haven't had any luck getting it to wo
    • Get a PVR-150 or 500, then, they are MUCH cheaper than the 350. You'll pull your hair out trying to get the PVR-350 to work perfectly, and even when you get it working, you'll find that the MythTV developers are no longer supporting it (and won't be fixing bugs with the TV-Out functionality)
      • The PVR-350 and PVR-500 are roughly the same price. I have a 350 and I'm pretty happy with it.

        One nice thing about the 350 is that you can record and playback at the same time, all in hardware. Which leaves your entire CPU free to do commercial flagging. That gets the flagging pretty close to realtime so you can start watching a show only a couple mins after the start time and avoid the commercials. Having the CPU free is also great for transcoding.

        That said, the 350 is still a single tuner, unlike the
    • I may look into getting some Mini-ITX boxes with monitors for the kids' rooms and load Ubuntu on them - voila, web surfing and email that I can control and monitor, and Myth frontend machines for them to watch shows on, which I can also monitor.

      I tried putting PCs in their rooms, and ended up taking them back out again when I moved into our current home.

      Now I have a long benchtop across one wall of the den, which I can easily see from kitchen, den, or dining room (the places my spouse and I spend most of

  • by BoldAndBusted (679561) on Wednesday March 22, 2006 @01:15PM (#14972756) Homepage
    From the article:
    Using an IR Blaster will enable the PVR to control the set top box, but this is an extra, and complex, installation.

    Nah, just get this: http://www.mytvstore.com/product_id_004.html [mytvstore.com]. The MyBlaster/Serial eliminates needing LIRC for the IR Blaster (which the article's author could then leave for just his PVR-350's remote, as I have). Use the excellent Perl script that is found here: http://www.mytvstore.com/mythtv_linux.html [mytvstore.com], set the device smack in front of your cable/sat boxes IR reciever (I find a small patch of double sided tape lasts for over a year, at least ;) ), and you're all set. No muss, no fuss.

    And did I say that this requires *no* LIRC fiddling? OK, just making sure.
  • I was thinking of running a MythTV in my office to my TV in another room altogether. What is the distance limits for the vidao output?
    • svideo can go about 200 feet. You would have to cable tie some audio cable and I do not know the limits to regular crappy rca audio cable. You could always setup some wireless speakers and not deal with audio cables.
  • Ubuntu + EPIA = [4295473.283000] hdb: timeout waiting for DMA [4295473.283000] hdb: drive not ready for command [4295473.386000] hdb: no DRQ after issuing MULTWRITE_EXT

    Search for this combination of errors on Google and it turns up half a million posts from people pleading for help, in all cases I have seen, it is Debian-derivative + EPIA, and met with "Dude, your HDD is bad".

    I've used multiple HDDs, of different brands, models, generations, and multiple motherboards, and multiple Linux distros. All o

  • .. not just adverts, mind, but any rubbish in shows. Take CSI - you could program it to not record the boring flash-cut science bits in which the characters pretend they're doing real-world science work, when in fact they're using technology that doesn't actually exist. Cutting the fat off shows could get them down to half an hour of proper watchable footage.
  • sheesh.... the things some people will do to information to get ad revenue....
  • I've thrice [slashdot.org] previously [slashdot.org] posted [slashdot.org] on Slashdot regarding my MythTV experiences. This comment should be read in context. (The main changes are that 0.19 has indeed fixed the OSD and the skipping-tuner issues. Everything else, both good and bad, I mentioned still hold true today. I *think* the newest KnoppMyth release actually now supports SATA drives, although I'll bet USB keyboards and mice are still considered suspect. I still disagree with the Pavlovian suggestion of MythTV--as we've once again seen in this th
  • Man, I did this 4 years ago with a Via Epia-5000 board, a Morex Cubid case, a 2.5" harddisk and a rev 1.3 full featured card. The system ran on a SUSE 9 distro with vdr and dvb compiled locally.

    Since somebody was asking for an out-of-the-box-distro: SUSE 9.3 and later does the trick. LinVDR as well. Duh.
  • I would love a PVR that can deal with Satellite TV. I have a Sky subscription, and I hardly use it, mainly because most of what I want to watch is on at inconvenient times for me.

    Sky+ is Ok, but I don't want a solution that turns into a brick and won't let me access any of the stuff that I've recorded when I stop subscribing to them. I'd also like to be able to archive stuff off to DVD / elsewhere at times.

  • is to build a system composed thus:

    One server with dual (or even triple) DVB-T cards and a lot of disk space plus net access.

    3 mini itx boxes with small hard drives and ethernet.

    The DVB-T cards would most likely be the Nebula DigiTV [theglowlounge.com] which you can set up so that as long as a machine has the software installed, it can receive its signal from the main box. Great. A small box in each room to receive the signal over the LAN plus browse the net, do email, watch movies and recordings saved on the servers drives.

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