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Linux Media Jukebox on the Cheap 225

tsetem writes "Over on ExtremeTech, they have a write-up on building your own Linux Media Jukebox for a little over $500 and a bit of elbow-grease. This is probably the PC we were hoping that the Lindows Media PC would've been." This particular project uses Freevo which has matured significantly since I last looked at it.
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Linux Media Jukebox on the Cheap

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  • Freevo, MythTV (Score:5, Informative)

    by Mysticalfruit ( 533341 ) on Tuesday April 15, 2003 @08:57AM (#5734974) Homepage Journal
    I like Freevo, but MythTV actually have live TV pause features and lots of addons... []

    • Re:Freevo, MythTV (Score:5, Insightful)

      by AKnightCowboy ( 608632 ) on Tuesday April 15, 2003 @09:11AM (#5735063)
      The problem I had with Freevo is I could never get the XMLtv stuff to work right without tons of fscking around. Maybe I was just doing it wrong, but it seemed like you had to enter all the channels you want it to pick up into the config file. Seems like too much work. :-) With MythTV on the other hand I grabbed a handful of Debian packages with apt-get, configured the mysql setup via the dialog prompts and had a PVR up and running on a prototype server in no time at all.

      Now all I need is the $1500-$2000 to build this project ($1000-$1500 for a backend server with between 500 and 800 gigs of space, $500 for a nice quiet living room system). Maybe I'm way too into this "free software" stuff. I could just buy a ReplayTV if they don't go out of business for much cheaper, but I'd have less functionality. Hmph. My goals are at least 500 hours of recording time, two tuners, enough horsepower to do DivX encoding from two tuners at once, and a nice quiet set top box for TV output in my living room.

      • Holy crap -- 500 hours of recording time? Wow. I suspect your long-term storage requirements are higher than mine. :-)

        I agree about two tuners though -- one of the things I'd want from a box like this is the ability to record one tv show while watching (w/full Tivo-like 30-second replay ability) another. I'm guessing two CPUs would do best for this...anyone care to let me know if that's right?

        • I'd want from a box like this is the ability to record one tv show while watching (w/full Tivo-like 30-second replay ability) another.

          I have a 15GB ring buffer setup with MythTV, which gives me 10 hour replay ability. :)


        • Holy crap -- 500 hours of recording time? Wow. I suspect your long-term storage requirements are higher than mine. :-)

          Indeed...that's nearly three weeks of nonstop TV. DVDs and SVCDs are cheaper, infinitely expandable, and less likely to fail. DVD-RW drives start at about $200 now, and blank DVD-Rs start at a little under $1.00. (For the budget-minded, CD-RW drives and blank CD-Rs are dirt-cheap, but everybody here knows that already.)

      • Re:Freevo, MythTV (Score:1, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Too much work? Geez, dude - just go to and put in your zip code, pick your service and get an html page with all the channels. Then awk for the right fields and cat it into the config file.

        This took me about two minutes (I'm on win32 right now) and the spam filter wouldn't let me post all 500+ lines ...
        2 WPBT
        3 WPTV
        4 WTVX
        5 HSN
        6 WXEL
        7 WGN
        8 WPXP
        9 WPEC
        10 WPBF
        11 WFLX
        12 QVC
        13 WFGC
        14 WBZL
        15 WTCN
        16 TVGC
        17 WHDT
        18 WLRN
        20 GOVACC
        21 WPLG
        22 WSVN
        23 PSA
        24 LIFE
        25 COURT
        26 MAX
        27 HBO
        28 HBO2
        29 HBOSG
        30 SHO
        31 TMC
        • Re:Freevo, MythTV (Score:5, Informative)

          by leighklotz ( 192300 ) on Tuesday April 15, 2003 @10:04AM (#5735423) Homepage
          I dunno, the perl intaller for XMLTV just did that all for me by itself.

          Freevo, on the other hand, is a moving target with tons of documentation about how to solve obscure past problems for people deeply involved. Despite there runs at it with a WinTV card, a DVD drive, a Packard-Bell remote, and a Matrix G400 (at one time the recommended configuration), I've not been able to get it working. Once or twice I tried installing from RPMs hoping that would set more defaults up, but it failed in obvious ways. When I noted this to the list, I got back a polite "Please don't report bugs when installing the RPMs; use the .tar.gz file." Next time when I tried the .tar.gz file and provided a bug fix, I got back "Please use the CVS tree." Conclusion: Freevo is not for ready for me to try. And yes, I looked at it this week.
          • Re:Freevo, MythTV (Score:2, Interesting)

            by delorean ( 245987 )
            Yup, I've been trying out Freevo for like a month. It's taken be almost that long to get most functionality working. Documentation sucks and is mostly irrelevant. I've tried to participate in that by fixing the wiki some.

            I compiled Mythtv, and it was horrible on my 800mhz Duron with 512mbRAM. I already have like four to five computers on in the house at any one time (mine, the wife's, the two kids, and the firewall) I don't really want a backend db server for a frontend media server. I like the one quiet p

      • I think that having a separate server is definitely the way to go for this kind of thing. Get the jet-engine into a closet somewhere and have a semi-thin box in your living room.

        Now the modern household will have a utility room for the washer and dryer, and a server room for all those backends.

      • I haven't actually tried it, but most of the reviews seem pretty good. It looks like for about $300, you can access all of your multimedia from a PS2. QCast []
      • I'm a free software guy, myself, but wouldn't be adverse to buying a ReplayTV or Tivo or whatever proprietary system if it had the one killer feature I need. Your goals are a little different than mine; you want 500 hours of recording time; I want a VCD factory. I want to just tell my machine this fall, "Make me a season set of Smallville," and then in May 2004 play disk swap while my system burns the entirety of Smallville season 3 for me.

        I don't think proprietary solutions will ever support that, whic

    • great link - thanks - if I had mod points I'd mod this up!
      I'm moving out of the country and where I'm moving doesn't have TiVo. I currently have TiVo and love it - but once I move, I'm considering making my own system, and it looks like either Freevo or MythTV would be great for what I want.

      the downside is that for the first few months I'm there, it looks like I certainly won't have more than dial-up in terms of internet, and I'm not sure I'll even have a TV for awhile... hard to do TiVo type things with n
    • Re:Freevo, MythTV (Score:4, Interesting)

      by starvo ( 33598 ) on Tuesday April 15, 2003 @09:21AM (#5735127) Homepage
      Yea, and unless you're running Mandrake 9.0 or 9.1, it ends up being a bizarre ritual that takes into the 3rd level of hell when you try to get everything working.

      MythTV has more features, and it works slightly better, BUT.. It's a pain to config and setup, and don't even get me started on the hell of making LIRC work with MythTV, on Redhat.

      Freevo is nice only because it puts everything together, in a slightly simpler package than MythTv. But it lacks features.. Hrm.

      Recently my roommate and I each built PVR boxes, and in the end, I heard a lot less swearing, and cussing from him, because he went with a Windows (XP) solution. He's using the Snapstream 3.0 Beta.. Pretty much does everything that Freevo/Myth does.. except you don't go insane when installing it. But yeah, if you can't get beyond having to run windows, then try MythTv or Freevo.
      • Re:Freevo, MythTV (Score:2, Interesting)

        by AssFace ( 118098 )
        for me, the nice part of running a linux box is being able to telnet/ssh into it and setup scripts on it to do xyz, and then more importantly - track stats on it - have it run a webserver that you can watch to track fan rpm levels, heat levels, cpu, etc.

        windows is very likely easier, but from the geek standpoint, I think the linux way allows so much more tinkering ability - so it is whether you want something that just works - or something that you can fool around with and have fun.

        I'm personally a stats
      • Re:Freevo, MythTV (Score:5, Informative)

        by Silwenae ( 514138 ) on Tuesday April 15, 2003 @09:37AM (#5735217) Homepage
        I would disagree that Snapstream is a fair comparison to MythTV, especially when you include the weather, music and game modules available, though setup is the biggest differentiator.

        In addition, with MythTV having the ability to do frontend and backend - record on one box and play on another, so you can have the noisy machine in a closet somewhere and the quiet one by the TV, is one of the best things Myth has going for it.

        That, and it has an extremely active community on the mailing list.
    • Re:Freevo, MythTV (Score:4, Interesting)

      by PhysicsExpert ( 665793 ) on Tuesday April 15, 2003 @09:41AM (#5735247) Homepage Journal
      Has anyone tried running MythTv on one of the VIA Eden boards? I'm really tempted to build a media box but all the solutions I've seen so far are either too ugly/too noisy/too expensive. If the processor on one of these boards can cope with the video stuff then they would solve these problems at a stroke. As a side issue do you know how the MythTv people are coming along with hardware encoding? The news on the site is a little confusing on that one.
      • Re:Freevo, MythTV (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward
        In MythTV CVS there is basic support for the WinTV PVR 250/350 card. You can record/watch live tv/playback but right now there isn't any seeking functionality -> coming soon.
      • Re:Freevo, MythTV (Score:2, Informative)

        by KingFoo ( 175702 )
        I've been monkeying with an EPIA M-9000 board and MythTV for about a month now.

        The C3 900 is too slow to do the whole job on it's own. The M-series boards show promise, with the onboard MPEG decoder, but VIA's support for the video hardware is poor, and the mpeg decoder support is non-existent at this time. When everything is being done in software (color conversion and decoding) is able to play most video file formats (not DVD). Right now, if I could do it over again, I'd go with one of those PCI all sing
    • Freevo vs. MythTV (Score:5, Insightful)

      by staini ( 236747 ) on Tuesday April 15, 2003 @09:42AM (#5735256)
      MythTV really is better when it comes to features around TV. However Freevo plays any format that MPlayer does. It works on any Video-Out that SDL works on (fbdev, dxr3, x11, ...) and has some nice addons, too. GPhoto2 integration, imdb a web recording interface just to name a few.
      From my experience it is much easier to make it look the way you like it and to make it do what you like...
    • Re:Freevo, MythTV (Score:4, Informative)

      by /dev/trash ( 182850 ) on Tuesday April 15, 2003 @10:58AM (#5735852) Homepage Journal
      MythTV looks cool but for god's sake don't go looking for help from the developers. They point you to instructions that don't work. Then when you ask a question they again pint you to the instructions and then they call you stupid when you tell them that you get an error on step 3 of the instructions.

      The whole attitude was that MythTV was great and had no bugs. Anyone who reported a bug was an idiot and should go back to Windows.
      • Re:Freevo, MythTV (Score:2, Insightful)

        by daveball ( 171178 )
        Not my experiance at all. They've been very helpful and intereasted with fixing bugs all the time i've been hanging out on the list (~6 months). Some responces are terse - but not to the extent of rudeness, but that is generally reserved for people that haven't made the effort to fully read the docs. I don't think i've seen any new "bug" reported to those lists that hasn't been investigated and fixed a few days later. It's the basic law of free support - if you dash in, demand an answer and are abusive
    • Re:Freevo, MythTV (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      I have a great deal of experience with both systems (Freevo and MythTV), so I am just adding my 2 cents.

      First off, I built a Linux From Scratch system to do this, because I wanted just the DVR stuff on these systems.

      From personal experience, I like Freevo quite a bit more. The big winner for Freevo is the user interface. It is more designed for a TV. The problem with MythTV (and the MythVideo and MythMusic modules, specifically) is that the interface seems to "computer oriented."

      Freevo isn't as mature
  • by Brian Boitano ( 514508 ) on Tuesday April 15, 2003 @08:59AM (#5734990) Journal
    made by a friend of mine ;) []
  • by iainl ( 136759 ) on Tuesday April 15, 2003 @09:00AM (#5735001)
    I've been labouring under the impression that one of the reasons why chipping XBoxes (list price £129 as of last Friday) with a mod chip (~£50) or even less thanks to yesterday's /. story is so great is because they do an excellent job as media jukeboxes themselves.

    The only part missing is that they don't have the inputs to record your own stuff, unlike these tv-tuner equipped boxes. If you just want to use playback (either from the internal drive or over the local network) then a chipped XBox is much cheaper.
    • The XBox still doesn't support any halfway decent video accelleration under Linux. It has framebuffer support though, but it wouldn't be ideal for any form of video playback without acceleration.
    • Exactly, you answered your own point! The XBox lacks the tv-tuner part. I was going to go down the XBox route myself, but I'd rather have TIVO-like functionality if possible.

      For a media centre, this seems like the ideal choice. I'm not sure if the MythTV or similar projects are mature enough yet though.

  • by robslimo ( 587196 ) on Tuesday April 15, 2003 @09:05AM (#5735031) Homepage Journal
    I'd like a media play that is a nice compromise between portable and full-featured.


    1) tablet form with about a10" screen with a foldable or removable stand
    2) support solid state media (smart cards, etc) along with a replaceable/ugradable hard drive for (somewhat limited) data storage.
    3) WiFi capability (to network to a media server in your home) and wired network capability.
    4) runs from battery or wall wart
    5) robust. don't want to break the display the first time I accidentally knock it off my desk.
    6) affordable!

    So, any entrepeneurs out there with a load of ready to design and tool up to build this thing for me?

  • is probably the PC we were hoping that the Lindows Media PC would've been.

    well, lets hope that this jukebox isnt plagued with half-arsed claims this time....

  • Cases (Score:5, Informative)

    by minaguib ( 591953 ) on Tuesday April 15, 2003 @09:09AM (#5735046) Homepage Journal
    I've been researching this myself for a while and one of the problems I faces was actually finding a case that resembles a VCR in dimensions rather than the traditional TOWER-pc. Here are a few links to interesting cases/systems that you might find interesting: /pro_slm_detail.php?UID=335&MODEL=MS-6243 ts.html ifications/model.cfm?mn=EEC-5000

    For the ones that come with a mobo/any hardware I cannot vouch for how well they work under linux (or windows for that matter).. These are just bookmarks from some initial research I did.

    • been playing with something like this myself..
      I found a few nice boxes.. but since i want to put in a few cards (bt848,dvb-c,dvb-t,cmpci soundcard,geforce graphics) a matx motherboard isn't enough.. so I gave up and am now using a slighly modded rackmount case :)

      btw.. the site seems getting slashdotted.. anyone care to put up a mirror?

    • compusa has sitting on their shelf a pc case that LOOKS like a 100 disc CD changer/ amp/whatever with a nice fold down front door that revelas the drive bays.

      $250.00 for it but if you are screaming for a look and dont want to do it yourself.
    • here [] is the ultimate case for you. (more info here [].) or maybe try this []. Enjoy.
  • Not a bad machine, very nice job with it. But why install Samba Server? Server would only be required for Windows -> Linux, Samba-client is for Linux -> Windows...which sounds like all it needs.

    I guess if you are going to be sharing the files with other system on your network that makes since, but I didn't see a mention of this...did I miss it?
    • They don't seem to be too god awfully uptight about security -- they assume that if you are behind a NAT router you don't really need to worry about a possible Samba hole --, so that is probably why they didn't wonder about whether to install samba server or not.

      That said, it could be handy to get some of those files off your A/V box and onto your... well, some other box running samba client.

    • I use samba on MythTV so that my wife may easily dump her music and pictures on the box without my help.
  • by mccalli ( 323026 ) on Tuesday April 15, 2003 @09:10AM (#5735057) Homepage
    Quick question to the world: is anyone running one of these on an Epia [] board, preferably the fanless variety?

    I'm a current (and very happy) Tivo user, but I wouldn't mind the ability to add MP3 playback and so I've been keeping half an eye on Freevo. The idea would be to put a fanless Epia-M into a hi-fi style case, and use it purely through a remote of some kind. Just like a Tivo in fact, but with the ability to do music too.


    • Noise / fanless epia (Score:5, Interesting)

      by slim ( 1652 ) <> on Tuesday April 15, 2003 @09:24AM (#5735145) Homepage
      My first reaction to the article was that it doesn't consider noise, and my ideal Freevo box would have to be whisper quiet, if not silent.

      I've investigated the mini-itx boards, and it appears that they might have just enough oomph to play back video, maybe to encode video with low compression, but not do both at the same time.

      Some of the mini-itx boards have onboard hardware MPEG decoders, which would help a lot, but I'm fairly sure there is no Linux support for these, and I know Freevo doesn't support any hardware MPEG decoders yet.

      One day, one day.

      Adding an PCI MPEG encoder/decoder uses up your one PCI slot...
      • The latest release of MythTV is broken up into a server/client model if you like. A mini-itx system would be perfect as a front-end for this and put your noisy powerful system out of earshot.
        • The latest release of MythTV is broken up into a server/client model if you like. A mini-itx system would be perfect as a front-end for this and put your noisy powerful system out of earshot.

          This is true, and a great solution if you don't mind putting your video/audio sources in the same out of earshot place. Certainly possible, but it's not conducive to dipping your toe in experimentally.
      • and I know Freevo doesn't support any hardware MPEG decoders yet.


        it supports the Hollywood + mpeg decoder board.

        I can play a DVD quality mpeg2 on a P133 with only a 25% processor load.

        Mpeg ENCODER support is missing in linux except for the horribly overpriced optibase cards.
        • WRONG!!!!

          (Freevo) supports the Hollywood + mpeg decoder board.

          So it does. My mistake. My excuse is that the documentation is hidden behind the cryptic link "dxr3"... Your rebuttal was a little gleeful for my liking though ;)

          So that's good news, although it seems a shame to spend money on a board when the epia mobos have MPEG decoding built in.
    • I am currently running a self built mp3 playback box from my 800 mhz Epia board.

      I strongly suspect that it won't have enough power to do the encoding/decoding of the video streams that you need.

      • Decoding shouldn't be a problem. Even if it had a VIA C3 chip, proper X drivers with the "xv" extension support would allow it to run on machines as low as a P233 with the right media player. The key is hardware accelleration, and it isn't a task for any run of the mill video card in Linux most of the time. I'm running on an ancient ATi at work, with a lowly PII, and all videos playback very fast. At home, my Kyro 2 and Athlon 1400 experience no more than 10% CPU load in the worst cases, but are around
    • I presume you don't have a S2 box, since they can do MP3 playback now with HMO.
    • by stratjakt ( 596332 ) on Tuesday April 15, 2003 @09:54AM (#5735351) Journal
      I played with one of the 800mhz boards, wanting small form factor PCs to build for my kids with at least enough juice to play some light games and stream DVDs and DivX off of my network.

      DVDs played, but were skippy and annoying. High-quality DivX was even worse.

      It has so much trouble playing back these streams, I cant imagine the struggles it would have trying to encode them in real time (with a capture card in its free PCI slot).

      All in all, I thought it would be neat for a little kiosk-type workstation or something, but didnt cut it as an entertainment device. So back it went.

      There are newer, faster, better models. But, I ended up going for Shuttle's FV25 flex-atx boards with Celeron 1.0a's (tualitin core, 256k cache). It's almost as small, has everything onboard (just add 40$ celery CPU and ram), and was much more powerful.

      It has onboard S4 savage video with shared ram (it aint high end by any means, but is more capable than people give it credit for - my kids play Dragons Lair 3D and other recent titles on it all the time). DVD/DivX/MP3/etc playback is A1.

      It's not fanless, of course, but the way they mounted in the cases I used (refurbed and repainted "Barbie PC" flex atx cases), air is drawn in the bottom, over a fanless CPU/sink (I had to hunt for a sink that was not too big, the intel stock sink wouldnt fit) and straight out the back, so one 80mm fan pinned down to 7 volts keeps the board nice and cool, and you cant hear it.

      Shuttle also has FlexATX boards for P4 and Athlon, if you wanted some real power for gaming. You find 'em primarily in their spacewalker barebones kits, but you can buy them seperately if you look around online.
      • DVDs played, but were skippy and annoying. High-quality DivX was even worse

        There must have been something wrong with the setup.

        I have the fanless 600 MHz version and it plays DVDs just fine. DivX play perfectly too if you drop the quality by two notches in the DivX player.

        The only time I had problems with DVD playback when I tried using Xine.

    • I'm using a EIPA-M with a 600 Mhz Eden processor. There is a fair amount of information over at [] including a review of that board/processor combo. From the reviews of the EPIA with the 400 Mhz and 500 Mhz processors over at Tom's Hardware [] I'ld have to say that these are not sufficient for anything past mp3 service. The main difference between the two setups seems to be the amount of processing which has been moved onto the other parts of the motherboard on the EPIA-M as opposed to the EPIA.
    • I have the EPIA-600 /proc/cpuinfo says I'm a CentaurHauls at 599.723 MHz, and is quite nice. No fan, and plays MP3s like nobody's business. Don't know about video or X, see linitx [] or miniitx [] for more info!
    • Yes. Or at least, someone is trying. Check out []
    • I have done something similar, using an EPIA M-6000 and a Hauppauge WinPVR 250 board. It plays back DVD's flawlessly, and since the WinPVR 250 is a hardware encoder, it encodes flawlessly as well. There are a few issues, however. Currently, there are no linux drivers (but I believe they are coming along quickly.) The second thing you should note is that if you run the CPU at full power, and run the MPEG encoder at full power, the system overheats fairly rapidly if you don't have a case fan. It makes a
  • Why not an Xbox? (Score:3, Informative)

    by calbanese ( 169547 ) on Tuesday April 15, 2003 @09:14AM (#5735079) Homepage
    $199 for the Xbox. $59 for a mod chip. $10 for some Cat5. And the open source Xbox Media Player [].

    Though you won't get Tivo-like functionality with it. But at that price you could afford to buy a Tivo if you really wanted it.
  • HDTV (Score:2, Interesting)

    by boy_afraid ( 234774 )
    What about HD signals? I currently have Tivo, but is there another capture card that can take in HDTV?
    • Well, there are cards, of course, but none of them seem to be supported by linux. As I recall, the prospects don't look too good either since manufacturers aren't willing to share the specs.

      I've been looking at this too, but figure I'll just have to buy an HD-Tivo when they become available. A usable more open solution doesn't seem likely.

    • There are HDTV PCI cards, but good luck getting them to work in Linux.

      The Hauppauge cards are infamous for getting not working in Linux, and the Hipix cards, I *believe* can be made to work, but it's a ton of work.

      I recommend you head over the AVScience forums, they have a dedicated forum for HTPC, and a subforum for Linux HTPCs.
  • Thats a service I am looking for for a while now.

    Im not the hardware geeks that's able to finding the best and cheapest combination of hardware for a special purpose. Other can do this better and they did, so now I can start building my own media portal. Great!

    But I would suggest another software for a all-in-one media box: vdr [], a pvr software running under linux for digital satelite tv, very stable and complete.

    ps: my first /. post, very exciting*g*

  • But how quiet is it? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by elwinc ( 663074 ) on Tuesday April 15, 2003 @09:22AM (#5735133)
    Sounds interesting, but how quietly does it run? The article never mentions noise/quiet. The case [] comes with 2 6cm fans; are they needed? The PSU is a 200W microATX that comes with the case; is it quiet? The AthlonXP 1.47GHz runs pretty hot; what kind of CPU cooler does it need, and how quiet is that? A noisy media PC is not much fun...
    • This sounds like a good application for an older Mac or one of those generic PPC motherboards that are finally coming out (e.g. Pegasos, AmigaOne, etc?).

      Athlon's main advantage is bang-for-buck, where "bang" is defined as crunching power. But if your application's "bang" is silence, then you want a CPU that doesn't use much power, thus doesn't generate a lot of heat, thus doesn't need a lot of cooling. A G3 is a better tool for the job than an Athlon.

  • by WIAKywbfatw ( 307557 ) on Tuesday April 15, 2003 @09:22AM (#5735136) Journal
    1. Small form factor, similar to VCR/DVD player.

    Hey, it's a media PC. I want to put it in the front room with my TV.

    2. Near silent operation.

    See above. No use being in my front room if it sounds like a jet engine.

    3. Ability to play, rip and stream (to other PCs) a variety of music file formats now and effortlessly accept more codecs in the future.

    Right now my collection is in MP3 format. When I have time, I will probably rip to Ogg from scratch. In two years time, who knows what new super-duper format will be king?

    4. Ability to play DVDs (of all regions) effortlessly.

    Region encoding is ridiculous. If I bought it then I want to be able to play it. It shouldn't matter if I live in London, New York or Tokyo. 'Nuff said.

    5. Ability to watch and record TV, PVR-style.

    Hey, it's not that difficult.

    6. Ability to do more than one of the above at once.

    If I want to stream music to elsewhere in the house, I still want to be able to watch a DVD without it skipping frames. It's not that much to ask.

    7. Ability to burn CD-RWs and/or DVDs

    It would be really nice if this DVD+/DVD- format war would just resolve itself. Multi-format players, like the ones from Sony, are nice but we shouldn't have to pay a premium just to avoid the risk of buying a turkey.

    8. Automatic update option.

    Some people like to have complete control of their box but the mass market demands simplicity. The Average Joe doesn't want something he's going to have to tinker with every two weeks. Let the AJs have their automatic updates and let the power users do what they want too.

    I'm sure I've left something off this list but these are the bare minimums that I'd look for in my ideal media PC.
    • In two years time, who knows what new super-duper format will be king?

      Dare I suggest wma?

    • VIA EPIA mini-ITX [] series would seem to fit your requirements.

      I've built a multimedia box based on one of these sweet motherboard/CPU combos. They can be run without fans (or with a small 40 mm fan) and have integrated 100 Mbps LAN, USB2, Firewire, VGA (+tv out), 6 channel sound and a hardware MPEG decoder. Add a slimline DVD/CD-RW combo and a large external harddrive (external to avoid problems with the small power supply). There is a one PCI expansion slot for the TV card.

      I'm running it under Windows,

  • A swing and a miss (Score:5, Informative)

    by stratjakt ( 596332 ) on Tuesday April 15, 2003 @09:36AM (#5735216) Journal
    This is all fine and good. A guy built a PC and put linux on it and hooked it up to his TV. It's no great feat, but it's linux so it's on slashdot.

    Anyways, here's what's missing or could have been improved..

    TV Tuner Card Hauppauge WinTV PCI $60

    Does the Hauppage WinPVR card not work? This costs only a few more beans, but provides vastly superior captures and onboard MPEG2 compression, IIRC.

    Keyboard Silitek SK-7551 $20

    A keyboard and mouse? This is the main stumbling block. A true MediaPC needs to be controlled through a simple interface with a remote control.

    Also, stick an LCD display on the front with a few buttons so it can be used without the remote.

    Of course that requires a bunch of coding work to make sure everything fits together seamlessly, and there's no trace of being a "PC" left in there.

    The new Radeon AIW Pro cards fit the bill for both video capture, playback, remote capabilities, and firewire transfer. Of course, they cost as much as this whole project.

    (In a nutshell I just spelled out the Media PC I'm working on putting together)

    In the end, this guy built a PC and installed Red Hat on it. Whoopty do. He can call it a MediaPC, he can call it a Star Trek supercomputer. It's still just a midrange PC with Red Hat installed.
    • by Sagz ( 194284 )
      "Does the Hauppage WinPVR card not work? This costs only a few more beans, but provides vastly superior captures and onboard MPEG2 compression, IIRC."

      I know that the MythTV folks are working hard on getting this to work.
    • but it's linux so it's on slashdot.

      it's a bitch about slashdot and how shitty the articles are so it's modded +4 insightful.

      newsflash! nobody forces you to come here! besides, I've seen 2 posts on this particular story from you. must not be that bad.


      anyways, the LCD display and a few buttons won't ever happen. the most you could hope for is a wireless keypad to do basic controls and move the mouse cursor around with a built-in trackball.

      It's still just a midrange PC with Red Hat i
    • You're right about the keyboard/mouse thing for a living room PC - it should be all-in-one, and wireless. You could try the BTC-5090 []. It's better than the logitech kits because it's designed to fit on your lap rather than your desk - it's not a full 105-key - taking the numpad off really reduces the size, but it's got handles for throwing around the living room. And it's also got a thumb-mouse (not ball) - like a giant laptop-nipple for your thumb - it takes some getting used to, but is cheaper than any log
  • by tweek ( 18111 ) on Tuesday April 15, 2003 @09:42AM (#5735259) Homepage Journal
    Instead of spending money on an uber-silent case and mobo (allthough a mini-itx [] would do the job), I'm considering this [].

    I figure I can hook this bad boy up to my powerhouse machine and just send it all wireless.

    The only thing I'm concerned about is sound quality. I've already got a dvd player so I don't need that functionality. I just want a way to play my divx files and ogg/mp3s on the main system.

    I've done some testing, converting divx to vcd but I always end up with unsynched sound. I also figure that keeping things in divx would be much better than spending the time converting them to vcd and having to change disks halfway through.

  • Dreambox? (Score:4, Informative)

    by frozenray ( 308282 ) on Tuesday April 15, 2003 @09:44AM (#5735269)
    The DreamBox DM7000 [] looks promising to me. What I'd like to have is a network ogg and mp3 player, and the DM7000 seems to have all the features I want, with hardware MPEG2/PVR functions thrown in to boot (and MPEG4 apparently on the way). It runs Linux, so retrofitting Vorbis and MP3 compatibility should be no big deal. Retail price is about $500 in my area, but I'm sure I can find a better deal on the 'net. More accessories (wireless keyboard) and pictures here [].

    Anybody have experiences with this one?

    German c't magazine ran a cool (but pricey) DIY media center project in 2001, see this [] post of mine. They had plans to convert it to Linux, but it's outside my price range, mainly due to the large LCD screen.
  • Well I've gone digital and I'm not going back now 'cause I can get a lot of cool channels that I couldn't before (800 channels total).

    Does this work with Digital cable?

    Does it playback through my TV?

    Does it come with a Remote?

    I didn't see mention of these in the parts of the article that I could get to.

  • myHTPC (Score:4, Informative)

    by SheepHead ( 610180 ) on Tuesday April 15, 2003 @10:10AM (#5735471)
    If you're running Windows try myHTPC []. It already does, can do, or will do nearly anything you want.

    Play videos, MP3s, view the weather, XMLtv guide information, launch emulators like MAME and any others (see the forum for myGames), view visualization plugins with Winamp or Windows Media Player 9, launch executables, write your own plugins... view your MP3s by cover art, your games by screen shot, control it with a remote or a gamepad... (find a joy2key program in the forums to use a gamepad for now.)

    Really, just check out the screen shots on the homepage. It's only been around for a few months and new releases come fast and furious thanks to Pablo's hard work. It is basically "like XP Media Center Edition, but better, and free." (as in beer, for now.)


    • Thanks for the link, I'll check that out.

      Right now I'm using showshifter [] for my media box, and I like it, but I really like the looks of myHTPC, and the price is right.

      Have you been using it for long? How convoluted is the set-up. Do you have to manually add the info for those pretty screenshots, or is their a flawless interface with IMDB databases? In short, whats the user experience like?

      ..and I never knew that Bob Marley did the soundtrack to pulp fiction.. Any idea why those songs and album i

  • Could this be done with one of those VIA C3 boards []? They're mini-itx and they have svideo outputs built in, along with audio built in... I just dunno if they would have enough grunt or the Linux compatibility.

    There's also a neato case for it that looks kinda like a home theatre component already, but I forget the URL for it (I'll keep searching for it though)... would be an interesting (and maybe cheaper) alternative.
  • by dmouritsendk ( 321667 ) on Tuesday April 15, 2003 @10:31AM (#5735620)
    Both MythTV and Freevo are really coming along nicely, the already challenge most commercial PVR system in the feature department. Both projects seem to be moving forward in a healthy speed, and projects of this type are bound to get a lot of support from geeks at home. So, the future looks bright for the OS PVR systems i reckon.

    But personally Ill be waiting a little while longer before i make my own little PVR box, im waiting for the IvyTV project []'s drivers to mature some more. And then use a Hauppauge WinTV 350 [] as the base for my box, this will give me real time hardware mpeg-2 encoding/decoding. The IvyTV team are doing great, in record time they have a partly working driver and a plug in for mythtv. So i think its safe to say that within a years time well see a Video4Linux2 compliant driver with hardware encoding/decoding support from them.

    So why do i want to encode to mpeg-2 anyways? I want to use mpeg-2 as the primary format on the box and divx as a "backup" format. Also with hardware mpeg-2 encoding, it should be possible for me to include a DVD burner and make it possible for me to record directly to a video dvd. Which would be really neat =)
  • Why do this at all? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jmcnamera ( 519408 ) on Tuesday April 15, 2003 @10:36AM (#5735668) Homepage
    Ok, mod me as offtopic but...

    Why bother to reinvent on Linux what exists elsewhere commercially.

    Yeah, we all want free, but why waste personal time on reinventing, shameless copying even.

    How about people do something different, innovative even instead of trying to make Linux do what XP (or fill in your favorite blank) already does?

    Ok, I don't watch TV much either, but hey, I have a life.
    • Why bother to reinvent on Linux what exists elsewhere commercially.

      I wonder if someone should have told Linus that back in the early days........

      Why bother to reinvent Linux when Minix exists elsewhere commercially? :)
    • You could get Tivos for a while here in the UK, but then Thompson, the only people who were producing them for this market, decided to pull out.

      You can get them on ebay, but good luck getting an account with Tivo - I hear you can't get through to their customer services department any more...

      If you've got satellite TV, you can get Sky+, but if you've got cable or terrestrial digital, you're stuck.

      Now that XBoxes are down to £130, I'm wondering whether you could make a tivo-like device for about
    • Why bother to reinvent on Linux what exists elsewhere commercially

      I came to a similar conclusion when I built my media PC. I installed Linux, and started trying to get all the bits of software I wanted working. After a couple of days I gave up and popped an old copy of Windows I had lying around on it.

      Next I installed the copy of WinDVD 5.1 channel DTS edition that came with the sound card, and the video capture software that came with the ATi AIW card. Placing shortcuts to these on the desktop at

    • How about people do something different, innovative even instead of trying to make Linux do what XP (or fill in your favorite blank) already does?

      How about you do something different and innovative and let the developers (who are working on their own time, their own dollars) climb the mountains they want to climb "because they're there?"

      If you were paying the developers, then you'd have the right to tell them what to do.

    • by TheConfusedOne ( 442158 ) <> on Tuesday April 15, 2003 @03:09PM (#5738123) Journal
      How about people do something different, innovative even instead of trying to make Linux do what XP (or fill in your favorite blank) already does?

      Heh, TiVo was out long before XP's Media Center PC was even an idea. (Heck, before XP itself.)

      Guess what TiVo was running on? That's right. Linux!

      The point is that the first commercial company showed that it can be done on Linux and done well. The problem is that the companies that make PVR's are struggling and their terms and licenses are getting progressively worse.

      So, I guess the idea is that the product no longer meets the consumers' needs so it's time to make a new product.
  • Does anyone know how to handle using either MythTV or Freevo with a DirectTV setup? I dont use broadcast or cable, ive just got DTV at home.

    Since this all seems to rely on a TVTuner card, im betting Im SOL. Though the RCA DTV 'tuner' deck has a DB9 (serial?) on the back, im betting channel changing could be accomplished this way...

    Has anyone tried using DTV w/ either system?
  • by sarkeizen ( 106737 ) on Tuesday April 15, 2003 @11:19AM (#5736034) Journal
    There must be over a hundred DIY-settop-with-linux type articles on the net. The majority of them seem to think there is some kind of trick to buying PC parts. Especially considering the people who read/build these things.

    This one is a little better since it talks about Freevo which is the only part of this package that an idiot couldn't put together themselves. It's got some things that might actually make this appealing to someone deciding OEM these to folk. It's got a nice menu. Some good features. However it doesn't do DVD menus...(Ogle does this fairly well guys grab that code). It poorly documents the IR remote situation. IrDA ports don't work very well with regular remotes (Which are ASK). You usually have to make/buy something like an IRman to do the job. It also doesn't appear to do 5.1 decoding or talk about using a SPIDIF output. So any reasonably serious videophile wouldn't look twice. It would be nice if instead of making DIY articles someone could make a distro dedicated to this kind of thing. HW detection on Linux is pretty good and a decent graphical installer would make this rock. Imagine a reasonably n00bish user buying some white-box set top box and dropping in a PVR-in-a-box CD and setting the whole thing up.

    Don't get me wrong the work in the Linux space isn't all bad I share developer space with a company who makes settop boxen and they don't even seem to get the whole pvr aspect of settops. They all seem to want to make a e-mail gateway with X10 stuff. Which seems like even a smaller market to me.
  • Obviously: insert any CD or DVD to play, and it gets automagically ripped and compressed, so that you can play it again as you like.
    But the really evil part is when the box gets online and shares. I'm trying to think of legit uses for such a thing but I can't. :-)
    • Obviously: insert any CD or DVD to play, and it gets automagically ripped and compressed, so that you can play it again as you like. But the really evil part is when the box gets online and shares. I'm trying to think of legit uses for such a thing but I can't. :-)

      Here's one. It's not a file sharing app, it's a caching grid computing solution. In order to reduce wasted clock cycles on your local machine, it determines whether any other machine on the grid has already ripped that CD, and if so it downloa

  • The newer Tivo2 and the $100 one-time service upgrade gets you remote MP3 and picture viewing along with PC connectivity across a LAN. Hey, and it's Linux so you can hack and compile your own addons if your into that.

    And it's got no keyboard but comes with an Ir remote.

    Cool project though.

  • Is it possible, with any of these solutions, to control them from a separate X session (or even from a command line) than where it runs? I would like to run a controlling session remotely from my laptop, and have the output sent from the server to the TV.

    My TV supports a few good resolutions over a standard VGA connector (it's one of those HD-lite jobbies, which supports the format/resolution but not the wide aspect ratio). So I should just be able to run standard X from the video card.
  • by Da Schmiz ( 300867 ) <{ten.nedyrp} {ta} {todhsals}> on Tuesday April 15, 2003 @12:41PM (#5736841) Homepage
    From the article:
    Next, we want to execute this script on startup. To do that, we have to place a link to it in the /etc/rc5.d sub-directory, which is where scripts get executed on startup in RunLevel 5, which is a full multi-user run mode with networking and X-Windows. To create this link, bring up a window in Gnome, and go to the /etc/init.d sub-directory (or wherever you've placed the bash script). Right-click on the file, and drag it onto the desktop. You'll be asked if you want to move, copy, or link to this script. Select "link here." Now, in that same window, change to the /etc/rc5.d sub-directory, and drag the script link from the desktop into this sub-directory. Next, you need to rename the script using the following convention-- Look at all the scripts that begin with the letter 'S' (these are services scripts, which get executed after kernel scripts, which begin with the letter 'K'). Find the last script that begins with the letter 'S', which is usually S99local. Verify that this is the highest-numbered script beginning with 'S'. If yes, rename the link to your bash script to: S100lvm The script will now execute on startup, and the needed LKMs will be available to Freevo.
    [Stupid /. formatting...]

    OK, that doesn't jive with what I learned in RHCE class. On a RedHat system, init processes the rc?.d scripts in asciibetical order (so S100lvm would actually come before S99local), passing "start" as the first argument to those scripts that start with S and "stop" to those scripts that start with K. The idea is that your init.d script should accept start and stop arguments and perform accordingly. Once you drop this script into /etc/init.d, you should be able to use chkconfig to set up the proper symlinks in the /etc/rc?.d directories. (A simple "chkconfig lvm on" should put "K" symlinks into rc0.d, rc1.d, rc2.d, and rc6.d, and "S" symlinks in rc3.d, rc4.d, and rc5.d.) Plus, you can use "service lvm start" to avoid typing "/etc/init.d/lvm start" (if that's your thing).

    Aside: Also, lvm is a bad acronym for "Load Video Modules", since LVM is the Logical Volume Manager, and RedHat includes support for LVM out-of-box.

  • For anyone wondering what the heck this is, you can look here [].

    Never seen one of these before...

If I have seen farther than others, it is because I was standing on the shoulders of giants. -- Isaac Newton