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Hardware Hacking Media Television

Build a BoxeeBox and Wean Yourself From Cable 335

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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  • popcornhour rules (Score:5, Interesting)

    by grub ( 11606 ) <> 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 []. 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.
  • 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?

  • 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

  • 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 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?
  • 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: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 Philip K Dickhead ( 906971 ) <> on Wednesday February 11, 2009 @11:54AM (#26813413) Journal

    Have Boxee and XBMC, now.

    Ditched Dish Network.

    Kids don't care its gone.

    Watching Rocky and Bullwinkle, now.

  • Re:Sub $500? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by hairyfeet ( 841228 ) <bassbeast1968@gm[ ].com ['ail' in gap]> on Wednesday February 11, 2009 @12:17PM (#26813807) Journal

    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 [] 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. I was able to pick up a 733MHz for $35 with $10 shipping. It is just a little beige box, a little bigger than a DVD player. Makes a perfect HTPC case, at least I thought so. In fact I am typing this on a second one that I picked up and never got around to converting. For surfing the web the 733MHz paired with 384MB of RAM(max for this little board) and Win2K Pro(came with it) it makes for a nice little net surfer. Oops...back on topic.

    Motherboard. Since either the retail HTPC case or the Compaq Deskpro is going to need a little board to squeeze into that little case I would suggest this one [] which is the classic Atom+945 combo. If you decide you want more graphics and don't mind going over budget both NV and ATI make several PCI graphics cards for those that wanted to upgrade to Vista(shudder). As for RAM, here [] is a 2GB stick for $22 which will max out the board. Now I am leaving out the tuner for a reason, and not because of price. I am leaving it out simply because the features vary so wildly among tuners that it really is a personal taste thing. I picked up an analog tuner(since I have cable) for a dirt cheap $15 that does all I want it to do(Mpg2/4 and FM radio) so you will need to decide which features/formats are right for your situation. Finally the HDD, which is $33 [] for a 80GB but again you can get bigger if you don't mind going a little over budget.

    Now lets figure up the damage. If you build a Linux based HTPC like in TFA and and go analog with the tuner like I did you should just squeeze in at around the $200 mark, give or take $10 for shipping costs. The final total for the parts listed, which is the worst case since most tech guys have at least a few parts lying around, is $181.96 before shipping. So your $200 HTPC is doable, and with a few extra bucks thrown in for a larger HDD and a digital tuner could actually be quite nice. Well I hope this helps some, as it did give me something to do other than waiting on TFA to come back up.

  • Re:Sub $500? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by SomeoneGotMyNick ( 200685 ) on Wednesday February 11, 2009 @01:09PM (#26814825) Journal

    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.

  • 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 [] on Ubuntu which I most recently installed using Mythbuntu []. 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 [] (along with a DNLA [] server like the cross-platform Twonky []) 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).
  • by JoeBorn ( 625012 ) <> 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.

Adding manpower to a late software project makes it later. -- F. Brooks, "The Mythical Man-Month"