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Hardware Hacking Media Television

Build a BoxeeBox and Wean Yourself From Cable 335

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the but-what-about-chuck dept.
Since I've been having serious problems with satellite all week, DeviceGuru's submission was really interesting to me. He says "Inspired by Roku's awesome Netflix video download box and impressed with Boxee's free A/V media center platform, it was merely a matter of time before DeviceGuru blogger Rick Lehrbaum would create the BoxeeBox, an Ubuntu-powered HTPC with Boxee serving as its primary media center UI. Based on a 2.5GHz Core 2 Duo CPU, the BoxeeBox has the look and feel of consumer A/V equipment and packs 2GB RAM, 1TB HDD, CD/DVD drive, USB, Firewire, HDMI, DVI-D, RGB, and 8-channel surround sound audio."
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Build a BoxeeBox and Wean Yourself From Cable

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  • Sub $500? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Thelasko (1196535) on Wednesday February 11, 2009 @09:59AM (#26811649) Journal
    That's nice and all, but how about something sub $300. If one of these can be built sub $200 (including the tuner), I would buy it today.
    • by furby076 (1461805)
      You would need to sacrifice some components for cheaper ones and sometimes these systems are tweaked so they do one thing and they do it well, but just barely.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Thelasko (1196535)

        You would need to sacrifice some components for cheaper ones and sometimes these systems are tweaked so they do one thing and they do it well, but just barely.

        Which reminds me, from what I read of the article (before I restarted my browser and discovered the site was Slashdotted) they spent something like $190 on THE CASE! Why the case? I'm thinking I should start making cases in my garage out of plywood and selling them for $100 each.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by internerdj (1319281)
          HTPC cases are expensive because they can be.
          • by aliquis (678370)

            And because the finish is better?

            • I do agree the finish is nicer than your average case, but I've seen full tower cases with finishes as nice run $100 cheaper than the cheap looking HTPC cases.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          I'm thinking I should start making cases in my garage out of plywood and selling them for $100 each.

          I got tired of cutting myself on the card slot openings on those metal cases. I'd rather try splinters for a while.

    • Re:Sub $500? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by QuantumRiff (120817) on Wednesday February 11, 2009 @10:09AM (#26811777)

      I couldn't agree more. A $500 box would free me from cable, at the price of about 18 months worth of cable. That's not a very good ROI. $300 would at least break me free in a year or so. (I don't have digital cable, if I did, it would probably be much quicker) Also, why do you never see these set top boxes with the over the air tuners? I would love one that acted as my digital TV tuner too

      • Re:Sub $500? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by ShieldW0lf (601553) on Wednesday February 11, 2009 @10:20AM (#26811937) Journal

        I've got an old Athlon with Mythbuntu and XBMC sitting in the living room streaming content off my home network, and I'm quite content not having cable. People who visit that do have cable with all the trimmings want to know how they can buy what I've got because it's better than what they have at home.

        I could use another terabyte drive on the thing though...

        Why isn't the free distribution of cultural content considered part of a countries diplomatic budget? It should be...

        • Re:Sub $500? (Score:4, Insightful)

          by hedwards (940851) on Wednesday February 11, 2009 @01:43PM (#26815373)

          Because we operate under the premise that things like movies wouldn't be made in any meaningful quantity if people weren't going to pay. True some people do create low budget films for free, but the number is pretty small and the production quality isn't usually as good. Plus some types of movies are just too expensive to do right, even if you're being budget consious.

          The only reason we had protections for Copyright, Trademark and Patent in the legal code originally was to ensure that there was an incentive to produce. Even if you're wanting to give away your code, photos, books, what have you, the protection does ensure that you have legal redress should somebody use it for purposes you don't approve of.

          Were we to have that level of deregulation in the IP market, you'd have only the choice of produce or not produce, with no option to control it at all.

      • by Thelasko (1196535)

        A $500 box would free me from cable, at the price of about 18 months worth of cable. That's not a very good ROI.

        Mod parent up! That's exactly what I'm talking about.

        Not only is it not a good return on investment, but you also have to worry about it breaking.

        What about channel guides? All of the MythTV users I've talked too complain about them being unreliable, or having to pay a subscription fee for them. It totally defeats the purpose!

        You're really at the whim of these content providers to continue to provide programming for free. One little disagreement with your ISP, etc. could render this thing useless.

        • Re:Sub $500? (Score:4, Insightful)

          by gEvil (beta) (945888) on Wednesday February 11, 2009 @10:29AM (#26812039)
          What good would a channel guide do you if you cancel your cable and no longer have "channels" to tune into? Sounds like some people haven't really thought this through.
          • by Thelasko (1196535)

            What good would a channel guide do you if you cancel your cable and no longer have "channels" to tune into?

            I was thinking more along the lines of canceling TiVo, but it's also an example of how, without corporate support, these kinds of projects can go wrong.

            • by powerlord (28156)

              I was thinking more along the lines of canceling TiVo, but it's also an example of how, without corporate support, these kinds of projects can go wrong.

              Well .. splurge the $300 except instead of buying an HTPC, go for the TiVo lifetime service. Pays off after ~2.5 years.

              If you've got a Series3, TiVo HD, or TiVo HDXL and are planning to switch to Over The Air reception + Netflix/Amazon/Streaming from desktop, then it seems like a good deal.

              If you DON'T have a TiVo yet, then its a more expensive proposition

          • by tepples (727027)

            What good would a channel guide do you if you cancel your cable and no longer have "channels" to tune into?

            Free-to-air television still has channels, and DTV has three times as many as analog did.

        • by Jon_S (15368)

          True, My Mythtv + boxee box is over $500 ($400 core2duo+nvidia Dell box, plus more for tuners and a 500 gig drive), but after 18 months, you still have the box (and I can use it as a real computer in the meantime when I want).

          Program guide costs $20/yr, pretty cheap.

          Both mythtv and boxee work great (well, boxee is still alpha). Note, with cable, you can't record (i.e. mythtv PVR) hardly any HD since it's encrypted, although the new hauppauge HDPVR "tuner" is making strides (and you have to jump through som

          • by jedidiah (1196)

            If you can get the cable provider's PVR box, then go for it.

            Otherwise, be very cautious. You may end up spending good money
            on something that ends up being a big turd.

            Homebrew systems can be expensive and complex. However they are also reusable.

        • by Big Boss (7354)

          The guide data fee is $20/year via SchedulesDirect. Hardly worth complaining about. I think this only works for USA users though. No idea on other countries as I don't live in them so I don't need guide data for them. :)

          I built my Mythbox for about $300 including a nice case. The second frontend machine was about $200 as I didn't need a hard drive. I boot from a USB stick and get content from the main Myth machine or the fileserver. I need a couple more TB on the fileserver though. The 2TB I have on there i

      • by multisync (218450)

        A $500 box would free me from cable

        I can't read the article, so I'll ask you. How does this free you from cable? Maybe if all you do is watch movies, but if you want to watch TV you would still need to connect something to the tuner on this thing.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Svartalf (2997)

          In this case, the OTA's often about as good as basic cable these days, with the TV stations providing multiple feeds in addition to the network one. I'm only missing a few things like Discovery at this point- not sure if it's worth the $30-50/mo for Dish to get it.

        • by jedidiah (1196)

          The Hulu plugin will give you access to all the "TV" you would ever want.

          If you aren't used to Tivo style navigation, you won't even be missing anything.

      • by russotto (537200)

        I couldn't agree more. A $500 box would free me from cable, at the price of about 18 months worth of cable.

        You have cheap cable. "Standard" cable in my area was $50/month and rising when I dropped it over a year ago. "Basic" is cheaper but I can get all of basic over the air anyway.

        Also, why do you never see these set top boxes with the over the air tuners? I would love one that acted as my digital TV tuner too

        It can be done, it just costs money. The only way to do it cheaply is to design your own hardw

      • Get an Apple TV for $229 or a Mac mini for the same price already built into a sexy case... save yourself the trouble.

        My ATV runs boxee great (no Netflix support due to their use of Silverlight as a media player - needs too much raw CPU)... but it gets Hulu, RSS torrents great, all other Boxee services and I've got a 1TB external attached where I store all my ripped DVDs and music collection. Add an antennae and HD OTA receiver - no more cable.

        Total cost $429 (not counting my DSL fees... which are grandfath

      • This can probably play any console game from the Atari to the N64/PS1 via emulator, though. That's some good added value.

        Legal? No. The first thing every single person I know who has even a little computer knowledge would do with a box like this? Yep.

    • by goombah99 (560566)

      Why? The point of Roku is that you can get netflix content. The BoxeeBox is not going to do that.

      • Re:Sub $500? (Score:4, Informative)

        by Striikerr (798526) on Wednesday February 11, 2009 @10:17AM (#26811885)

        Why? The point of Roku is that you can get netflix content. The BoxeeBox is not going to do that.

        Umm, yes the Boxee Box WILL get NetFlix streaming content. It can connect into your NetFlix account and it displays all of the Streamable content presently in your queue. It will also let you browse other streamable content. I have used Boxee to access my NetFlix streamable content on my Mac connected to my TV. It is an amazing application!

        • by Jon_S (15368)

          Netflix works on Mac, not on Linux

          http://forum.boxee.tv/showthread.php?t=3385 [boxee.tv]

        • by goombah99 (560566)

          I was under the impression that the Roku had a modest buffer in it. The streamed netflix content really stinks for me. I have comcast and after 6pm at night I get all sorts of interruptions. I can't figure out who to blame. When I do a traceroute I see the latency if about 0.5 seconds and there are 5 hops just within the the limelight system Netflix uses. Plus half the time the resolution goes to hell.

          So I had assumed the reason to pay for roku was it somehow worked better than the ultra-craptastic sil

    • Re:Sub $500? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by 0100010001010011 (652467) on Wednesday February 11, 2009 @10:21AM (#26811941)

      Buy and old xbox. It's not going to do HD content, but Boxee is a fork of XBMC. [xbmc.org] Using XBMC+rtorrent+pytvshotws [sourceforge.net] I have what can be assumed to be a near identical setup. The 'server' is in a different room and it has 2TB of space.

      • by tepples (727027)

        Buy and old xbox.

        Any ideas on how to buy an old Xbox console without buying one that has version 1.6 firmware [xbox-linux.org]?

        • 1) Buy a used xbox from someplace that lets your look at it first. You can determine the version by looking at serial number and manufacture date. [xbox-linux.org] Short version: if it was made before 2004, it's pre-1.6

          2) You can still use a hardware mod chip on a 1.6 box.

          • by tepples (727027) <tepples@gm a i l . com> on Wednesday February 11, 2009 @12:09PM (#26813651) Homepage Journal

            Buy a used xbox from someplace that lets your look at it first.

            Who has tried this at a local GameStop or somewhere? Or where else would you recommend that would be available to people in most parts of the United States?

            Short version: if it was made before 2004, it's pre-1.6

            The Version 1.6 Warning page states that Xbox consoles can be updated to 1.6 through the Internet. By "look at it" do you mean "turn it on before paying for it"?

            You can still use a hardware mod chip on a 1.6 box.

            For many users, it takes less time==money to buy a Popcorn Hour box than to learn to solder.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by ubercam (1025540)

          That's not the firmware version, it's the "version number" of the motherboard given by the scene/community to differentiate between the different boards as they were revised/changed/made cheaper over time. It's not official Microsoft version numbering. Also, no matter which board you end up with, there are mod chips available. Divineo still sells them, whether you're in Canada, US or Europe. I'm sure you could find some on Ebay/Kijiji/Craigslist or even at a game shop in your area.

          I bought mine in 2002. It'

      • by Thelasko (1196535)

        The 'server' is in a different room and it has 2TB of space.

        How much does this 'server' cost?

      • by Lumpy (12016)

        I do this with XBMC live. I ignore Boxee because it's all SD quality or worse. Great for someone in a dorm or small apartment, sucks for someoen with a 42" plasma. XBMC live + pytvshows + some of my scripts and I have all of the Revision3 HD shows, lots of HD podcasts from other places as well as everything commercial I want from eztv.it

        I just cant stand the low quality TV that boxee has as a source. I guess that's the only way to give you "legal" tv from hulu.. only crappy quality permitted.

    • Re:Sub $500? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Lumpy (12016) on Wednesday February 11, 2009 @11:33AM (#26813075) Homepage

      XBMC Live - Better than Boxee and uses far less Horsepower for 720p HDTV.

      I built one for $190.00 with a P4-3ghz proc and motherboard, all the goodies including a 8600gt video card and MCE remote. expense was the hard drive to hold all the 5Gig AVI HDTV movie rips. I use a python script with command line bittorrent and wget to silently pull all podcasts and tv shows I am after to the box. works great and I dont have to have a tuner card. Add an additional $99.00 of you want it to look like a stereo piece, or buy a old replay TV for $20.00 and hammer everything inside that case.

    • by tuxgeek (872962)

      "That's nice and all, but how about something sub $300. If one of these can be built sub $200 (including the tuner), I would buy it today."

      I currently have a Motorola cable dvr provided by my cable co. It' s a piece of shit that I return to them monthly just to get another pos unit. I would gladly pay the 6 bills to own something that will replay my recordings w/o crashing.

      Thanks Rob, for the link and giving others an alternative option to cable hell.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by hairyfeet (841228)

      Well, since I can't RTFA since it was slashdotted I can at least help you out there, bud. I have built an HTPC for around the price you state. The reason I say around is simply because you know how volatile PC prices are and can vary wildly day to day. Anyway here is how I did it.

      Lets start with the case. Here is the cheapest [newegg.com] HTPC case I can find, but if you don't mind fugly you can go even cheaper and get a running box to boot. Simply look up "Compaq Deskpro SFF" or "Compaq Deskpro EN SFF 733" in Google.

  • popcornhour rules (Score:5, Interesting)

    by grub (11606) <slashdot@grub.net> on Wednesday February 11, 2009 @10:02AM (#26811685) Homepage Journal

    If you don't want DIY and something non-geek friendly for ~$200 check out the popcornhour network media tanks [popcornhour.com]. Streams from a server or user-installed hard disk. Plays x264, divx, xvid, wmv, etc all at up to 1080p.

    We own two and just love them.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by CopaceticOpus (965603)

      The Popcorn Hour boxes look very nice. Still, they are rather limited by their lack of ability to play web based video. I'd like to see a box around the size and cost of the Popcorn Hour box, which adds the following:

      1. Runs Boxee, in order to give access to Hulu, YouTube, and many other online videos.
      2. Is a licensed Netflix device.

      Maybe they are working on it, or Roku is, or someone at Boxee is. Whoever gets there first should find plenty of waiting customers.

  • A 2.5GHz Core 2 Duo based system isn't going to be silent.
    I think THE requirement for a media centre is silent operation. (and I don't mean silent 2.0 as defined by the marketers these days)

    Also, stupid name.

    • by DanWS6 (1248650)
      You'd be surprised. I recently build a media pc using a 3.0 GHz core 2 duo, 4GB of ram, etc. The system is deathly quiet compared to my old one, which featured duel p4 xeon's....
    • by Spatial (1235392)
      A design choice rather than a limitation. The C2Ds have a TDP of 65 watts and very high tolerances in general. Great candidates for passive cooling.
    • by Hatta (162192)

      My PC is a 2.2GHZ C2D, stock cooler. I have it in an Antec P180b, with 2 120mm fans on low. I can't tell whether the thing is running or not without looking at it. It's definately quieter than my first gen Xbox running XBMC. Granted, this is probably not the case you want for an HTPC, but it can be done.

    • A 2.5GHz Core 2 Duo based system isn't going to be silent.
      I think The requirement for a media centre is silent operation. (and I don't mean silent 2.0 as defined by the marketers these days)

      Depends. If you go with all cheapest possible ordinary parts, then yes. The fan noise will be loud enough to be annoying. But if you go for quiet fans and a pretty heavy gauge metal case, it will be as near silent as a DVD player.

      A couple of these quiet case fans and a PSU with a slow 120mm cooling fan is surprisingly quiet. And even the stock AMD cooler is pretty quiet(no idea about Intel). The computer is for watching video, not playing the latest dual SLI graphics cruncher games, so passively cooled vide

    • by Lumpy (12016)

      I think THE requirement for a media centre is silent operation. (and I don't mean silent 2.0 as defined by the marketers these days)

      THE requirement for a media centre pc is to fit in a cabinet where you cant hear it. I dont understand the obsession with making a silent PC that sits out. put the thing in a cabinet or in your equipment rack and call it done, dont waste time and money making it "silent".

      My Xbox360 and ps3 sound like jet engines, so a standard pc will be silent compared to them.

    • by Xtravar (725372)

      You're new to this aren't you?

      http://www.silentpcreview.com/ [silentpcreview.com]

      Buy a passive heatsink.
      Line the case with Dynamat (or flashing tape if you're cheap).
      Buy only the best fans.

  • Good article if... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by MrBandersnatch (544818) on Wednesday February 11, 2009 @10:05AM (#26811719)

    You're looking to build a media PC but I couldnt help but be disappointed by the use of a micro-atx rather than mini-itx motherboard. While we may have to wait for Nvidia's Ion platform before mini-itx can do HD playback the current batch of boards are quite nice for SD playback.

    Boxee looks interesting...are there any comparisons out there between it, Freevo and MythTV?

    • by Big Boss (7354)

      ITX can do it. Just get a board with an NVidia 8xxx or better chipset and use VDPAU. It's "beta" quality right now, but plays everything I have thrown at it, including some CPU killing Blu-Ray transcodes. And it does it while using ~5% of my X2 3800+ CPU. Amazing stuff.

      You can add a PCI based VDPAU capable card for about $60 as well if you want to keep your existing setup.

  • Sadly, without the ability to get HD channels like Discovery, HBO, etc, these boxes will always be at a serious disadvantage.

    • by Big Boss (7354)

      Hauppage HD-PVR.

  • I have been in touch with the Boxee people about sourcing content on Boxee, and they pointed me to their API for Developers [boxee.tv] and an RSS format [boxee.tv].

    What's not clear to me why there aren't templates or the equivalent for common video sources such as H.264 or Flash. (I.e., if I am sourcing a standard video stream, why do I even need an API ?

  • by Overzeetop (214511) on Wednesday February 11, 2009 @10:14AM (#26811837) Journal

    TFS makes it sound like you can replace your cable (or satellite) provider with this box. Where is the (non-OTA) broadcast content coming from. Has he made a wife-capable Hulu scraper? If so, and Hulu agrees not to break the box every couple of months, then I'm interested. If it's just "you can download stuff that's a year old and on DVD from netflix, do OTA, and access your personal media collection," then it's really not much better than what already exists.

    Unless it's that he's put it into a nice looking box. In which case...he's just discovered the world of HTPC cases.

    I'd love to believe, but without an article I'm puzzled at where the novelty is.

    • by Hatta (162192)

      There is a Hulu scraper for XBMC on which Boxee is based. It works pretty well for the most part. Some streams just don't work, but most do. I doubt they have permission from Hulu, as they seem to bypass the flash based ads. But it is GF friendly, as long as she can handle an occasional stream not working. Pick up a used xbox on the cheap and try it out.

      • Actually, I've got a Dell 740/745 micro box that has a barely-functioning XP-MCE on it. I might try this out in it's place for the bedroom if I can get a remote that isn't code-compatible with the main Vista media center (everything in my house is tied on an IR network to the equip closet, so I have to be careful of overlapping IR codes...I can't believe MS didn't consider this when the created MCE). It won't do HD (or at least not x264) since it's only a P4-2.4. I've already got 3TB on my unRaid box, so pr

    • by adolf (21054)

      Personally, I'm puzzled by the whole thing.

      With just a little bit of spare CPU on a Windows box, my PS3 has wife-compatible Hulu and Netflix. And it's also a wife-capable CD player. And a wife-capable DVD player. And a wife-capable Blu-Ray player. And even the wife can figure out how to stream music and shows from the Mediatomb box onto the PS3. I understand you can also play games on a PS3, and I'm sure nobody believes me, but even my wife has been seen doing so.

      It's not currently doing any OTA stuff,

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by stickyc (38756)
      The wins with Boxee are:
      • It's got a fairly high WAF (Wife Acceptance Factor) in that the UI is pretty easy to use (certainly much easier than Finder/Explorer).
      • It's a "social" media player. In that it has a "friends" system like most other social sites. You can see what your friends are watching (opt-in, of course) and use that as a tool to find new content.
  • by elrous0 (869638) * on Wednesday February 11, 2009 @10:15AM (#26811855)
    Since the site is slashdotted and the summary is a little shy on details, can someone summarize how this thing works without cable? I know you can torrent some shows and watch some on sites like hulu, but that doesn't really "replace cable" (especially if you watch HD content). So how does this media center work with no cable input?
    • by Hatta (162192)

      I know you can torrent some shows and watch some on sites like hulu, but that doesn't really "replace cable" (especially if you watch HD content).

      I don't watch HD content, but besides that XBMC with torrents and hulu has completely replaced cable for me. If I can get the daily show, south park, and star trek over the internet, and weather OTA, I don't know what I'd need cable for.

    • by spinkham (56603)

      Check out the showfinder site [cancelcable.com].

      We don't have cable, and between a mythtv box with a hdhomerun OTA box, hulu, and netflix, we watch everything we want. There's a few shows we're one season behind on, but I prefer to be able to watch the seasons at my own pace over when they're broadcast. Of course, I work from home, so get no spoilers at the water cooler.

  • Okay, so you can watch movies on the thing. What about the latest soap opera or miniseries or news program?
  • Look here: http://forum.boxee.tv/showthread.php?t=5773&highlight=AppleTV [boxee.tv]

    Seems like using an AppleTV with Boxxee provides a nice elegant $229 Boxxee box. I haven't used it, but friends tell me its great and dirt easy todo.

    • I use this as well. Relatively simple to install using a USB stick. I use it more for Hulu than the Boxee codecs. It's still in alpha so there are a few glitches from a performance standpoint, but nothing too serious. This combined with Netflix streaming from my Xbox360 and simple AppleTV purchases has allowed me to totally ditch cable since October of last year. I do receive OTA to my Media Center PC, which allows me to use my Xbox as a MCE. This allows me to access my local channels for news and suc
    • by ZorinLynx (31751)

      A friend and I tried this.

      The AppleTV has such a slow processor that it can only play standard definition video using Boxee. It required the (proprietary) Apple Quicktime stack to be able to do 720p, since it needs hardware acceleration.

      If you're only doing SD you'll be okay. But if you want to play back HD you're going to need more muscle.

      Just fair warning for anyone considering trying this. :)

      • I may be blowing smoke since I haven't tried Boxee HD...but HD from the iTunes store works fine on my AppleTV (720p). Wouldn't this reflect a problem with Boxee instead of a "slow processor" in the AppleTV?
        • If we're talking about CPU issues with one service and not on the other, with the same resolution, we're not looking at a Boxee problem as much as we are a codec issue.

          Rendering in HD is a very expensive process for a CPU, especially an H.264 codec. Standard file compression rules apply - the more an item is compressed, the more CPU cycles needed to decompress.

  • The media available for boxee is quite diverse; I very much like the idea of watching Netflix videos without having to resort to a VirtualBox/WinXP operating system. But I haven't been able to get a 64-bit binary for it, and I can't seem to compile it in 64-bit too. Running it in a 32-bit chroot was unsuccessful as well -- has anyone had success with boxee for 64-bit platforms?
  • by Riddles (2787) on Wednesday February 11, 2009 @11:06AM (#26812597) Homepage

    And this basically sums up my experience with these devices over the past couple of years. Getting any pc to do decent tv-out is a nightmare (Modeline Hell as he calls it). Getting sound on both regular outputs and digital outputs with Alsa is "challenging" to say the least. And then I just want the box to suspend and wake-up using a remote. Again, that's possible in theory, but somehow I've never found a board that will reliably go into S3 and wakeup from S3 over and over again. If you finally get it to work once, it suddenly doesn't work the second time.

    Finally, I've just switched to a UPNP frontend for my Mythtv backend. It turns on and off in 5-10 secs, does both analog and digital audio outputs and I've never had issues with its tv outputs. I've lost some functionality, but at least it's reliable and "just works".

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by JustNiz (692889)

      >> Getting any pc to do decent tv-out is a nightmare (Modeline Hell as he calls it).

      This sounds like you're trying to use some horrible analog interconnect like S-video or something. Last time I remember modelines was on my Amiga.

      Funny how connecting my PC to my TV has never ever been a problem for me. But then I have always used newer (nVidia) videocards, and have a TV that also supports DVI.

      If you really want decent TV-out then upgrade to 1990's tech and get a video card and a TV that supports DVI o

    • by JoeBorn (625012) <jborn@neurosau[ ].com ['dio' in gap]> on Wednesday February 11, 2009 @06:30PM (#26820029) Homepage Journal
      I have a kind of unique perspective on this, we're actually building a discless Ubuntu TVPC box for mass production and its clear that getting it to "just work" at least in all situations does take some work. We use a new chipset (AMD 780g) because it supports audio over HDMI (note that many of the comments on here quietly note that they are using DVI with analog audio of some kind) nVidia's drivers still don't support this. We're actually working directly with ATI to make sure that the graphics chipset resumes properly from sleep, that it auto-senses the display properly, etc. For many on here, those kind of hiccups are no big deal, but when it comes to the WAF or making a real mainstream product, there is a lot of little details that need fixing. Take my word, there is a lot of tweaking needed to truly have something "just work" and bear in mind that we're dealing with production runs of perfectly identical hardware, so the problem goes up dramatically if you are piecing together a variety of components in a DIY way, although I suppose you have more options of tweaking during install than we have for a product sold to consumers at retail.
  • The site is down so I can't get to the specs but...

    What good sound cards are easily supported in latest kernels with the ability to output 5.1 (or more) easily under alsa? Anyone got a working HTPC setup with one?

    What about all those crazy DTS/TrueSurround/THX things, are they worth it?
    Do we even have support for all this?

    A friend had to revert to windows because of the sound setup in Linux for his 7.1 amplifier, I don't have the details but just wondering...

    I'm still in 2.0 here but wouldn't mind switching
  • An easier solution (Score:4, Insightful)

    by stickyc (38756) on Wednesday February 11, 2009 @02:23PM (#26816053) Homepage
    For those who don't wish to spend as much time assembling and tweaking, but still want to enjoy Boxee goodness; You can buy a refurbished Mac Mini, DVIHDMI dongle, and 1tb external disk for roughly the same price as the author spent on his Ubuntu rig. Boxee is available (and started) as a native OS-X application. Plus, with OS-X, you can get streaming HD Netflix.
  • by msimm (580077) on Wednesday February 11, 2009 @03:50PM (#26817581) Homepage
    A few quick points:

    Disclaimer: your mileage, needs and interests may vary.

    1) I liked MythTV [mythtv.org] on Ubuntu which I most recently installed using Mythbuntu [mythbuntu.org]. The Xbmc derivatives look nice, but never so compelling I actually used one (because I was already using something I liked).
    2) If you plan to use it, consider not fscking with it. Having a TV on the fritz because you tweak the software constantly can sometimes be pretty annoying (maybe mostly to the *other* people).
    3) Consider 2 disks. Maybe it's just me, but after a few reinstals/etc I occasionally get sloppy and screw up my partitioning.
    4) Keep a hobby PC to play around (if you like to) with and let the HTPC just work TM.
    5) If you have a (non-geek) wife, consider not going the home-build route and using a Xbox or something like (which, after 4 or so years is what I use, exclusively) the D-Link DSM-750 [dlink.com] (along with a DNLA [wikipedia.org] server like the cross-platform Twonky [twonkymedia.com]) this way you end up with a slim, attractive, wireless (803.11n), fanless, HD streaming media device that will allow you to plug your previously computer-bound content (Ogg and MKV included) directly into your HDTV (without having hassle with it).

    Of all the solutions I've used this has worked the best for me. But like I said, your ymmv (and I'd be curious to hear about it).

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