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Television Media Toys

Build Your Own PVR 469

Posted by michael
from the some-assembly-required dept.
An anonymous reader submits: "One geek's trials and tribulations of buying a ReplayTV, hating it, and deciding to build his own Linux PVR from nothing. The first try sinks into the swamp (hardware problems). The second try sinks into the swamp (more hardware problems). The third try... you get the idea. But success, finally, based on SageTV, a Windows PVR client. Makes you wonder if current Linux PVR apps are just too much of a pain to get working well?"
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Build Your Own PVR

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  • pushy (Score:5, Funny)

    by Scrameustache (459504) on Friday January 23, 2004 @07:57PM (#8071869) Homepage Journal
    Build Your Own PVR

    I don't have the time! Stop pressuring me!
    • Why... (Score:3, Insightful)

      by strateego (598207)
      Why is this article on Slashdot. He didn't even use linux for it. And he PAID for software to do what he wanted, a true nerd who have programmed it himself.

      Can we mod a whole story down?
  • SkyTV PVR (Score:4, Interesting)

    by MoonBuggy (611105) on Friday January 23, 2004 @07:59PM (#8071883) Journal
    I still want one that supports Sky TV in the UK. I could take the output from the decoder box but then anything I wanted to record I would have to set the box and the PVR, defeating the purpose.

    Anyone know how to put a Sky signal straight from the dish into a PC? They use some obscure encryption so even when you pay for a viewing card you cant use it.
    • Re:SkyTV PVR (Score:4, Informative)

      by Osty (16825) on Friday January 23, 2004 @08:23PM (#8072061)

      Do what TiVO does with cable boxes -- get an IR blaster. Program the PVR with the codes to change channels on your Sky TV box, and let it change the channels on the STB for you. Any good PVR app will have support for this.


      As a side note, TiVO has recently (within the past 6 months or so) started supporting certain cable boxes via the serial port, and they do support many satellite boxes via the serial port as well (just in case you had a TiVO before you got on DirecTV, and didn't want to get the DirecTiVO). However, the IR blaster approach is still required for a lot of cable boxes, and it works.

  • by Nicholas_D (548536) on Friday January 23, 2004 @08:00PM (#8071892) Homepage
    www.mythtv.org the best PVR ever... it does everything, great UI, great support (pchdtv card, HARDWARE MPEG2 encoder/tuner cards.) Absolutley great functionality and pretty to boot! I think this answers this articles question!
    • by prockcore (543967) on Friday January 23, 2004 @08:10PM (#8071974)
      mythtv has a lot of great ideas, but it is way too buggy right now.

      Watch a half hour program. then mythtv crashes and locks the device so you can't even restart it without rebooting.
      • by Kraken137 (15062) on Friday January 23, 2004 @08:23PM (#8072060) Homepage
        Pehaps for you. I've been using MythTV for about a year now, and it's wonderful. My MythTV machine has a higher uptime than my firewall right now. The Debian packages work great.
        • Perhaps it is a hardware problem. What TV card are you using? We were using a haapauge WinTV PCI card. We've never had problems with it before under linux, but maybe MythTV doesn't like certain cards.

          • I've used the WinTV Go cards, an AverTV Stereo card, and my current card is a Hauppauge PVR-250 (hooray for hardware MPEG-2 encoding). Support for the hardware decoding on the PVR-350 is still sort of tricky (I opted to not go for that yet).
      • by jpmkm (160526) on Friday January 23, 2004 @08:24PM (#8072072) Homepage
        Sounds like a hardware problem. Mine doesn't do that. Although on about 1 in 20 recordings the sound is kinda metallic with my wintv-dbx and turtle beach santa cruz.
      • by radixvir (659331) on Friday January 23, 2004 @08:24PM (#8072075) Homepage

        mythtv has a lot of great ideas, but it is way too buggy right now. Watch a half hour program. then mythtv crashes and locks the device so you can't even restart it without rebooting.

        You make it sound like everyone who uses mythtv has this problem. I use it day to day and it works great. once you get it up and going its alot better than even those pay products like sage. but i have to agree, unless you have experience with linux, its going to be tough

      • I don't know what version of MythTV you were running, but I've been using it for 4 or 5 months with almost no problems. On ocassion, video won't be there or the channel won't change or there is no sound, but usually the problem isn't with Myth but with me (whoops; seperate module for the tuner...) But no lockups. Perhaps your problem was a system problem as well; immature driver for your capture card or video card?

        In any case, my experience with mythtv has been superb. Never miss an episode of Family G
      • by The Vulture (248871) on Friday January 23, 2004 @08:41PM (#8072181) Homepage

        I'll add another to the "me too" count, MythTV works fine for me. I even own one of the supposedly troublesome combos of a VIA KT400 chipset and a PVR-250, and it's working fine. We'll see how that works when I put another PVR-250 in the mix, but for now it works.

        As a bonus, there's a website that has step-by-step instructions, using apt-get for everything on Fedora Core 1. You could pretty much copy/paste the directions, and have a MythTV machine up and running in less than one hour. That website would be here [wilsonet.com].

        -- Joe

    • I love my mythtv installation, it is what made me move over to Linux for good.

      The only "issue" is that MPEG-4 really puts strain on my CPU, holding a Athlon 2600+ at ~60% while encoding.

      I now do homework for the next day's courses instead of watching adult swim and the daily show at night. I also watched some football games with it, and having a frame-by-frame slow-mo is wonderful. What's even better is never watching commercials, cuts the time of shows way down. Even with a crappy four year old bt87

      • "(I really need a sound card with hardware mixer support)."

        That would be an SBLive! Value card, clocks in at about $20-$25 USD these days. Eat ramen for one day and you can afford one. :)
  • What, no TiVo? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by LimpGuppy (161354) on Friday January 23, 2004 @08:00PM (#8071894)
    It seems the submitter forgot that the "best" PVR is already running Linux...
    • Re:What, no TiVo? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by pfunkmallone (89539) on Friday January 23, 2004 @08:08PM (#8071960)
      That's what I was wondering...this guy was impressed with his friends Tivo. He then went out, bought Replay and decided he hated it. Then, went out and spent a bunch of cash on another computer?

      Why not just by a Tivo? At his rate, it would have saved him time and money (assuming he couldn't return the Replay).

      My Series 1 absolutely rocks. 120GB drive in it, with Tivoweb. Sure, there are things I wish it would do, but then again...what it DOES do, it does REALLY WELL.

      After a couple of month of the monthly $12 fee, I learned that my TV watching had changed forever, and I sprung for the lifetime subscription before they bumped it up from $250 to $300. I've got backups of the software...but I absolutely dread the day my hardware dies (I hope I outlive it).
      • Why not just by a Tivo? At his rate, it would have saved him time and money (assuming he couldn't return the Replay).

        Why not just read the article? It would have saved you asking a redundant question which he (rather, his wife) asked and he answers many times throughout the article.
        • Re:What, no TiVo? (Score:3, Insightful)

          by sammy baby (14909)
          No: his wife asks the question several times, which rather leads one to believe that he never answers her.

          Come to think of it, the entire article could be summed up thusly:

          "A friend of mine had Tivo, which I decided I wanted, but I didn't want to shell out $600 for the whole nine yards. So first I went with a cheap option which didn't work. Then I went with a cheaper option which also didn't work. Then I went with a more expensive option which worked, but badly. Finally, I tried something which worked, an
  • Nah (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ryanr (30917) * <ryan@thievco.com> on Friday January 23, 2004 @08:00PM (#8071895) Homepage Journal
    I had occasion to build both a Windows and a Linux HTPC for a recent book. The Linux one took longer for some of the steps, and I had to do some hairy troubleshooting, but it is perfectly possible. MythTV is pretty impressive, actually. The DVD ripping on the Linux side was much nicer.
    • Re:Nah (Score:5, Funny)

      by HogynCymraeg (624823) on Friday January 23, 2004 @08:48PM (#8072217)
      The DVD ripping on the Linux side was much nicer.

      That's because we all know linux hackers are bloody communist hippies who spend spare CPU cycles wearing patches, shouting "oo arr!!" and riding the high seas in search of copyright bounty!

  • by truthgun (62387) <tNO@SPAMroundbrackets.com> on Friday January 23, 2004 @08:01PM (#8071897) Journal
    There was an Ask Slashdot on this very topic not so long ago:

    Building A Low-Budget TiVo Substitute? [slashdot.org]
  • Uh, Tivo? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by macemoneta (154740) on Friday January 23, 2004 @08:01PM (#8071898) Homepage
    Tivo didn't seem to have that much trouble buiding a Linux PVR. Isn't one person's experience too small a sample for such a broad comment?
    • Re:Uh, Tivo? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by RatBastard (949)
      There have been many stories here about home-brew Tivo/Replay (both run Linux, BTW) systems and almost every one has been filled with horror storied about getting things working.

      The advantage that Tivo and Replay have over home-brew systems is that both systems are fixed hardware platforms and as such, drivers are a non-issue. Much like game consoles. Tivo's software was written and tested on Tivo equipment. They don't have to worry about getting different brands of sound cards to work, or different ker
    • Re:Uh, Tivo? (Score:3, Informative)

      by jerw134 (409531)
      It runs on the Linux kernel, but Tivo had to write all the software themselves. Are you suggesting the average person can write their own PVR software? Get real.
    • Re:Uh, Tivo? (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      This guy's whole problem was that he couldn't get linux installed, it says nothing about PVR software. I built a Myth-Tv box (without a floppy drive, I mean seriously thats what hung him up?) using Mandrake 9.2 and Thac's RPMs (http://rpm.nyvalls.se/) with URPMI.

      Install was litterally: urpmi mythtv, follow the simple instruction for populating the database, and watch tv. Took about an hour, including putting the cheap ass tv card in the pc, and download time for the software and tv listings.
  • MythTV (Score:5, Informative)

    by ghideon (720955) on Friday January 23, 2004 @08:01PM (#8071900)
    After looking around at alternatives to Tivo, I settled on MythTV [mythtv.org] [MythTV.org]. Lots of plugins (DVD, Video, etc) and surprisingly stable.
    I run an Epia Nehemiah 1Ghz w/512 MB RAM with a Hauppauge PVR 350. The web front end makes all my Tivo using coworkers drool. Yes, it was a pain in the rear to get everything working, but in the end, I gained some knowledge and have one neat little system.
    • Re:MythTV (Score:4, Interesting)

      by CommandNotFound (571326) on Friday January 23, 2004 @08:07PM (#8071956)
      Has anyone tried KnoppMyth, which is basically a customized Knoppix ISO that anchors to the hard drive with MythTV? I have MythTV installed to a RH9 box, and it wasn't too difficult to install, but for a newb I suspect a CD installer would be easier. I looked at Windows products, but I really wanted the Mame/Emu frontend more than the PVR functions, so Myth was a no-brainer.
      • Re:MythTV (Score:5, Informative)

        by rusty0101 (565565) on Friday January 23, 2004 @09:29PM (#8072428) Homepage Journal
        I used knoppmyth to set up two boxes, going to make a couple of changes and use one as a front end, the other as a three tuner server. Possibly this weekend. Latest Journal entry is my experience.

        Web site with a forum (you may still want to search through e-mail list archives, I don't) is http://www.mysettopbox.tv/

        R4 worked for me after some tweeking that I agree would be more than the original article writer would like. I am comfortable with Linux, including Debian, so it was not a problem for me. I am hopping R5 will be out soon, and will take care of the few issues I had.

        One item that the KnoppMyth forums have that you may find handy is a tier 1, tier 2, tier 3 listing for hardware configurations that worked out of the box, with minor changes, or not at all.

        -Rusty
    • Re:MythTV (Score:3, Insightful)

      This poor guy gave up, when he couldn't solve a floppy seek on boot error...

      He couldn't get past booting linux on the thing - not exactly a stunning indictment of MythTV!


    • After rebates, I paid about $550 for my Tivo box, including lifetime subscription. Is the DIY hardware more or less expensive? For all the time and trouble, I think it would be difficult to save money. The only advantage over Tivo is that you are free to do whatever you want with your MythTV box (and recorded TV shows ;-)
      • 'tho I use SageTV on a self built box, my comments are even more salient with regard to MythTV. I can configure to my specific needs and desires, don't get another bill in the mail and am free to do whatever I want to the content. Just the network acessibility of my box is worth it, viewing shows with VLC and controlling SageTV with VNC is flat out sublime.
      • The DIY approach does cost more, unless you happen to have the hardware lying around.

        But, as many other people have stated, with the setup guide mentioned in the article (which I also mentioned in another post), you can install all of MythTV via apt-get. This gives you much more functionality than a TiVo, as you get not only timeshifting of TV, but you also get the ability to do picture slideshows, watch/rip DVD's, playback videos (stored on the hard drive), view the weather forecast, and play games under
    • Re:MythTV (Score:2, Informative)

      by darco (514434)
      I also run MythTV [mythtv.org] on my PVR... It is an Asus Pundit [asus.com] with 2 ATi TV-Wonder cards. I can be recording two different TV programs and watching a pre-recorded program all at the same time. Plus, I can run MythTV on my workstation in my office and watch TV as if my workstation had a TV adapter, all over the network. Same goes for the TV recordings. Excellent software, always getting better.

      If you are comfortable mucking around Linux, then MythTV is definitely the way to go.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Now you can finally be free of the arbitrary restrictions of proprietary software! Save money by avoiding costly OS licenses! Build your own Tivo-like device, using.. Windows?!?

    Reminds me of people who combine two or three pre-packaged foods in a bowl and call it a "recipe".
  • Linux problems? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Welsh Dwarf (743630) <d@mills-slashdot.guesny@net> on Friday January 23, 2004 @08:03PM (#8071920) Homepage
    The guy gave up on a floppy not found error, which when added to his comments on a video card he gave up on, leads me to believe that he wasn't really that experianced with Linux.
    This isn't a flame or anything, but this article doesn't reflect at all the state of Linux PVR.
    • Re:Linux problems? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by uradu (10768) on Friday January 23, 2004 @08:39PM (#8072174)
      His web site screams "tech moron". The bit killed me about never going to use the modem, and then proceeding to bend the case to make it fit anyway! He spends the first two thirds of the page meticulously documenting his incompetence in putting together hardware for all the world to see, then one paragraph on rebooting Linux and not everything working right away, and then off he goes into Windows bliss. And then the moral of the story is that Linux PVRs are not ready for prime time?! To quote Basil Fawlty, his wife clearly made a mistake.
      • Re:Linux problems? (Score:3, Insightful)

        by 74nova (737399)

        And then the moral of the story is that Linux PVRs are not ready for prime time?!

        yes. regardless of his skill level, the point is that linux didnt work out of the box, but the windows stuff did. windows is crap, but more often than not, it works right away. your mileage may vary is the case with any linux project, in my opinion. any OS for that matter. ive been relatively pleased with XP, but i sure wish i didnt need it and could use my debian install at work more.

        i love linux, i can deal with wind

        • Re:Linux problems? (Score:3, Insightful)

          by uradu (10768)
          > the point is that linux didnt work out of the box, but the windows stuff did

          Uh, not really. Windows itself maybe did, but his first attempt at a Windows PVR didn't. Besides, only once have I failed to boot Linux successfully on the first try, and that was this week with a MandrakeMove CD on a Dell Latitude. Knoppix worked fine on that same machine.

          > having said all that, i think im just gonna buy a pvr

          I've had TiVo for several years myself, despite being quite comfortable with Linux and Windows.
    • Re:Linux problems? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by freeze128 (544774)
      When I read a review like this, I find it incredibly useful if I know the qualifications of the reviewer. In this case, by reading the article, you can tell that he has enough skill to build his own computer system, get it connected to his television, but not so much skill with getting video drivers to work in older linux distributions, or solving what some of us would call "easy" floppy controller problems. This is very valuable information to have, especially if you:

      1. Don't use linux on a regular basis.
  • by EvilStein (414640) <.spam. .at. .pbp.net.> on Friday January 23, 2004 @08:04PM (#8071927) Homepage
    How many "Build your own PVR!" articles have we seen in the past few months?

    The SAME ANSWERS come up:
    * "Why? Tivo is affordable"
    * "MythTV!"
    * "TV sucks!"
    * "ATI All-In-Wonder!"
    * other sourceforge suggestion...

    • VGA to NTSC video converter and any good quality video card. You'll get much better video then I've seen coming from most graphic cards TV out (by a long shot) and hardware over/underscan to help fit your video perfectly to your screen. They cost under a $100 so it'll probably save you money too.
  • What's a PVR anyway? (Score:2, Informative)

    by wolenczak (517857)
    For those who don't know... as I: personal video recorder A personal video recorder (PVR) is an interactive TV recording device, in essence a sophisticated set-top box with recording capability (although it is not necessarily kept on top of the television set). Vendors and media also refer to the units by these names: digital video recorder (DVR); personal TV receiver (PTR); personal video station (PVS); and hard disk recorder (HDR). -BW
  • by afra242 (465406) on Friday January 23, 2004 @08:04PM (#8071932)
    I tried building my own "Tivo"-like box too in Linux. It eventually cost a bit more than buying a Tivo, but I use it as my DVD burning and mp3 jukebox in addition to MythTV.

    Installed Debian on it with similar hardware as the author of the article had. I had no problems whatsoever, though I've been using Linux since '98.

    If you want just a Tivo box for cheap, I don't suggest doing it unless you want shady quality. Get a damned good TV Card (like the PVR-250 which does encoding on the hardware - this is around $120 alone), and a huge hard drive, and a good amount of memory. If you have the PVR-250, you don't need such a powerful CPU as the MPEG encoding is handled by the PVR.

    All in all, it was worth the time. I never have to look back and it's simply an amazing solution. I've been using Myth for about 8 months and it never stops to amaze me.
  • by Cylix (55374) * on Friday January 23, 2004 @08:06PM (#8071948) Homepage Journal
    Ok, Ok...

    First of all, I get the idea this person is not a veteran of the linux industry. He does a good job of navigating through what are essentially basic problems.

    I don't think its worthy to mention he had his jumpers wrong... everyone makes a jumper mistake and it is fairly easy to diagnose.

    His major fault.... He purchased a Win-TV 250. This card is pretty good actually with onboard hardware mpeg2 encoding. (I own a 250 as well as a vanilla hauppage win-tv) The drawback to the Win-TV 250 is it does not have tv out. He should have spent a couple extra bucks and got the 350.

    The next big mistake was relying on some integrated tv out solution. It's been my experience that onboard has the tendency to be slightly different then their off board branded brotherin. Thus, I can easily see why he had some troubles.

    He said it himself, he suffers from some impulse buying habbits. I think a little more research on compatability would have turned up better linux results. Personally, I went into the linux pvr project with absolutely no starting knowledge other then getting my hauppage card working a long long time ago. (out of the box support made it no chore). However, knowing nothing about the task prompted me to research, research and well... read more.

    I wish he had tried a Knoppix MythTV Live CD as I would like to have seen the results. ie. used knoppix CD and it worked! (probably not with the odd video out)
    • His major fault.... He purchased a Win-TV 250. This card is pretty good actually with onboard hardware mpeg2 encoding. (I own a 250 as well as a vanilla hauppage win-tv) The drawback to the Win-TV 250 is it does not have tv out. He should have spent a couple extra bucks and got the 350.

      The WinTV-PVR-250 is well supported in MythTV which is currently the most mature linux based PVR package and from experience I would recommend a VGA to NTSC video converter WAY before I'd recommend using any cards video ou
    • I don't think its worthy to mention he had his jumpers wrong... everyone makes a jumper mistake and it is fairly easy to diagnose.

      Well, that's kind of the point. It's easy (and fast) to diagnose. It's the first thing you check if hard drive or CD-ROM isn't working.

      This guy spent two hours wondering about it, and needed God to intervene before getting it right.
  • by NateTech (50881) on Friday January 23, 2004 @08:07PM (#8071952) Homepage
    Anyone who can't properly hook up an IDE disk (check the jumpers BEFORE you install it) shouldn't be attempting to both build a computer and install an OS they've never tried before under a deadline.

    He also did a horrible job on research and homework. He could have probably slapped a KnoppMyth CD in the drive and been done in record time.

    I'd say -- this guy simply didn't have the basic computer and Linux skills to do anything but install pre-packaged software. He ended up with the solution that fit that skillset the best.

    No offense, but he wasn't ready to try a do-it-yourself solution. A consumer solution *is* the best for someone with the limited time he had available (self-imposed deadlines) and knowledge level.
  • TiVo (Score:5, Funny)

    by 511pf (685691) on Friday January 23, 2004 @08:08PM (#8071962)
    So the writer spent dozens upon dozens of hours building, tearing down, rebuilding and troubleshooting something that's going to be less reliable and more expensive than a TiVo? DirecTV with TiVo is $100 plus $5 a month, not $600 I can just hear his wife now, "Matt! I JUST want to watch American Idol! Can I PLEASE watch American Idol? Why is there no sound? How come the picture looks bad? Why do I have to reboot the computer just to watch TV? What's a General Protection Fault? Wait! Something just popped up on the TV that says 'NIMDA' what's NIMDA? The TV said 'C: drive full' while I was watching the Trading Spaces Marathon! MATTTTTTTTTT!!!!!!!!!!!" Dude - just buy the TiVo and you're done. Seriously.
    • So a decade ago this developer spent dozens upon dozens of hours building, tearing down, rebuilding and troubleshooting something that's gone to be less reliable than Windows? I can just hear his wife now, "Linus! I just want to play some games. How come the video is all screwy? What's a core dump? Wait! Something just popped up on the screen that says 'kernel panic' what's a kernel panic? LINUSSS!!!" Dude - just buy Windows and you're done. Seriously.
  • by C10H14N2 (640033) on Friday January 23, 2004 @08:09PM (#8071967)
    "Though I still hope to improve my Linux competency someday, I seem not to have the patience."

    One wonders, if you are going to venture into building something like this, with a confessed lack of competency and patience, would failure not be a certain outcome?

    When one feels the need to document at length the oh-so-advanced topic of repeatedly screwing up the jumper settings on your hard drive, this becomes more an article on basic computer construction skills than anything about PVRs. I won't get into "the instructions said 'use a screwdriver.'" He ditched the entire linux idea because he couldn't disable the floppy seek. Please.

  • If he cant the thing to boot linux, hes not a geek. Period. Further proof, instead of trying out Fbsd which supports happuage he runs to MickySoft. done.. end.. he sucks
  • by randyest (589159) on Friday January 23, 2004 @08:11PM (#8071983) Homepage
    6. Conclusions

    This is only my second day as a PVR equipped husband and already my wife has forgotten about TiVo. She watches episodes of Charmed and the Gilmore Girls and grins as she fast forwards through commercials. As for me, I have been spending quality time with John Stewart - his show on the Iowa Caucases was not to be missed.

    Yes, this little project ended up being a little more pricey than I had expected, about $800 total, but I am left with an expandable and powerful system capable of doing a lot more than any TiVo can do. Perhaps the whole thing was silly. After all, VCR's basically do the same thing right?

    Hey, kudos to him for getting it working. Most of the stories I've read in this genre end up with the author buying a ReplayTV or TiVO because his creation failed the spouse test. Or just wouldn't work reliably. According to the conclusion, wifey is as happy as a clam.

    But:

    Soon the sound started falling behind the movement of his lips. That was no good. Plus his body blurred when he moved. My hero, John Stewart was jittery and smeared. The wife grumbled.

    So, we have $800 for a TiVO with a relatively unreliable guide with less info, no auto-commercial skip (as in 50XX series ReplayTV's), lots of fans and noise, 3x the power use, and picture quality issues that will be fixed Real Soon Now:

    After all of this, the picture was better, but John Stewart still looked unintentionally silly.

    Apparently, the next version (2) of Sage will be available in early February 2004, and these picture adjustment issues will be much easier to grapple with.


    In my experience, SageTV always has image quality and sync problems (and they always blame the OS, or the video card, or cosmic radiation, etc. -- I got a refund). I really do want to make my own PVR one day, but I'm afraid the time is not yet right. Almost, but not quite.

    • here [slashdot.org]. I've been using MythTV under Mandrake for over a year now with none of the problems you described including commercial skip. With the combination of Zalman [ewiz.com] fan for the noise and WinTV-PVR-250 [hauppauge.com] for the high quality hardware Mpeg 1/2 encoding you should be set. If your waiting, this is it. And you get a hell of a lot more functionality (and upgradability) for your buck. And if Linux gaming keeps picking up the way it has, you can kiss that Xbox goodbye too.
  • by schwep (173358) on Friday January 23, 2004 @08:11PM (#8071991)
    By the sounds of it this the guy did't have much (or really any) experience with linux. He simply wanted to slap a bunch of stuff together, and hope that the designers of Fedora & whaterver else he used could make everything "magically work." That belief lends its self to someone who should pay for an out of the box solution.

    I can slap a lot of hardware together and try and run any number of systems on it, but if I'm not willing to WORK through problems, they will all fail.

    Don't waste ./ers time with whiners.
    • More accurately, it takes a real Linux geek to figure out where he failed. For years now it's been possible to pop a one or another distro boot CD in and walk away from the install. In the dozen plus I've used I never ran across a floppy boot seek error. LILILILILILILILILILILILILILILILILILILILILILILILILI LILILILILILILILILILILILILILILILILILILILILILILILILI LILILILILI for sure, but never a floppy fail.
  • Umm, did he even get linux to boot? Admitedly I just skimmed, but it sounds like he installed fedora, had it not boot because he didn't have a floppy, (which deserves it's own wtf since I don't think I have a working floppy and have never had a problem), and called it quits for linux before he ever got to mythTV, freevo, etc.
  • by autophile (640621) on Friday January 23, 2004 @08:16PM (#8072025)
    Tivo costs about $250. Plus another $299 for a lifetime service subscription. That is $600 beans. Not cheap.

    If that's his math skill, no wonder he kept failing...

    --Rob

  • by Kazymyr (190114) on Friday January 23, 2004 @08:17PM (#8072034) Journal
    Both TiVo and Replay run on the Linux operating system

    TiVo does run Linux, but Replay uses some embedded realtime OS. Definitely not Linux.
  • by monopole (44023) on Friday January 23, 2004 @08:24PM (#8072070)
    Despite being a penguinista, my experiences with getting the ivtv driver to work with The Hauppage PVR 250 PCI cards were rather hopeless regardless of the distro I employed.
    I finally broke down and installed SageTV on a Win2K box and have been very happy ever since. I'm using two PVR 250 capture/compression cards, an NVIDIA GeForce 5200 and a Fortissimo 7.1 (just for the TOSlink output) on an Athalon 2000+ system using an IRman universal IR recivever which makes the system think It's a tivo to allow for my universal remote to support it. One tuner is connected to the output of my cable box to allow access to the digital tier and HBO using an Actisys IR-200L.
    The overall result is spectacular, I never have recording conflicts, flawless sound and picture quality, and I can back off shows to DVD with the Ulead MovieFactory package which comes with the PVR-250. I can also view the Mpeg files from my other computers as well. The SageTV package also serves as an MP3 and DVD Player. When the remote is not enough VNC works flawlessly. Quite indispensable given my schedule, and its addicted me to Inuyasha as well!
    Excellent software, 'tho I intend to revisit mythtv when a mini-distro is available.
  • linux vs. windows (Score:2, Insightful)

    by z00ky (614811)
    windows is a bit easier to manage when you have problems (because there are so many problems with it, most people who would build one are probably very experienced in fixing problems with windows) also, linux has always had major issues with drivers. always has, and always will.
  • by msimm (580077) on Friday January 23, 2004 @08:37PM (#8072151) Homepage
    But I built my PVR over a year ago and had a great success the first time. Here's what I learned:
    1) I use Mandrake and unless your using Debian or Gentoo I'd suggest using it simply because MythTV rpm's and ALL their dependencies have be set up by our good friends at Thacs and PLF.


    2) Use MythTV ABSOLUTELY. I was lucky enough to start with it, but it has been one of those rare bits of software the continues to surprise me with *both* its design and implementation.

    3) Make sure you have enough horse power, I'm using an AMD 1800 and its enough to get the job done. I'm sure some have done it with less, but I've found a couple of occasions its been a little tight.

    4) Use the Hauppauge WinTV-PVR 250. Its supported under MythTV (thanks to their hard work) and will give you Mpeg1/2 recording in hardware.

    5) Buy 2 Hauppauge cards. MythTV supports PIP and I think the coolest thing is to be able to let the kids watch one program while the other records in the background.

    6) Use a VGA to NTSC video converter. Preferably one that uses its own hardware to convert the signal (I'm using one that is more or less a pass-through and had to set up some pretty weird modelines). You will not regret this.

    7) Don't get stingy with the hard drive space! They are pretty cheap now and even having two 120 gig drives THINGS GET TIGHT. All day marathons of your favorite programs can unexpectedly create 100's of gigs of unwatched TV shows (add to that ripped DVD's and your entire Mp3 collection..).

    8) Just a reminder: Use Mandrake. Its OSS, its friendly enough for your wife/kids/visiting friends and will install MythTV (or a MythTV update!) in a single shot. Just make sure to configure Urpmi (which will apply to Rpmdrake simultaneously) with the PLF [urpmi.org] and Thac [nyvalls.se] resources (you'll find how to configure them in the links I provided). Aside from have the MythTV packages they have a lot of really good (and really useful) multimedia software and after all the funniest part of having a homebuilt PVR that does more then most commercial packages is that its really a complete computer, so you might as well use it.
    Like I said, I built mine over a year ago. I haven't stopped gloating since. Commercial detection, DVD ripping, dual WinTV-PRV containing, upgradable, themable and totally configurable home video entertainment at its best. And for the times your bored with that you can try a little gaming on the big screen (right after checking Slashdot and reading your email of course!).
    • S-Video or RGB (Score:3, Informative)

      by Slashamatic (553801)
      You really don't want NTSC composite out. It is a sucky standard anyway designed for ease of decoding by discrete electronics in the fifties. It is one thing when that is the way it came in, but definitely not for DVDs. In anycase, an NTSC decode/recode will not be optimal and most TVs have S-Vodeo or RGB in.
  • Digital video is still fairly new, tech-wise, and it's still rapidly changing (MPEG4, HDTV, new codecs). Plus, you're trying to perform a specialized task on top of a generalized platform - which is naturally going to be more complex then a dedicated solution would be.

    So between the rapidly changing codec terrain, the scads of possible devices, varying levels of operating system support, and the fact that pushing video around is an order of magnitude (or two) more demanding then audio - I'm not surprised
  • ATI's software gives you access to local TV listings and schedules. The software that comes with the card allows you to capture to MPEG2 so that you can burn it straight to DVD.

    Several months before I got the card, I used my grandfather's ReplayTV to record a show that was on at 4:00am and later I took my PC to his house and captured the movie with my ATI card and WHAM I now have a DVD of the movie.

    LK
  • by Patman (32745)
    Freevo [freevo.org] was not a pain to set up. Far from it - it went really well. I was up and running about an hour after first install, and was fully tweaked out just a couple of hours after that.

  • and an ATI TV Wonder Pro (not an All-In-Wonder - that one doesn't work with MythTV) - had a horrible time getting modules loaded, etc. All sorts of issues. Spent 2-3 weeks on it, using various distributions. The issue was the chip on the TV Wonder.

    Ended up just going back to the ATI Multimedia Center that shipped with the card and Win2k. I don't have shifting, but it's not the end of the world.

    SageTV supports the Hauppauge cards - MythTV should be a breeze to get working with one of those.
  • BYOPVR (Score:3, Informative)

    by planetjay (630434) on Friday January 23, 2004 @09:05PM (#8072312) Homepage
    Seems like a good time to mention BYOPVR [byopvr.com]! Which was launched a few weeks ago.
  • by meehawl (73285) <{moc.liamg} {ta} {maps.lwaheem}> on Friday January 23, 2004 @09:11PM (#8072337) Homepage Journal
    I built my own PVR last year, but even with MyHTPC [myhtpc.net] it failed the spouse test badly. So when I saw those $150 ReplayTVs [fatwallet.com] for sale in Radio Shack I pounced on them. I bought two. At $150 they deliver amazingly good MPEG-2 capture so for the same price as a PVR-250 I get free guide and streaming.

    Contrary to the experiences described in this article, my ReplayTVs work flawlessly. Plugged in to the home network, DHCP served them up IPs, they downloaded their info and updated their software. They use uPnP to auto-discover other ReplayTVs on the network and integrate them very well in their on-screen UI.

    In fact the UI is a big win - it passes the spouse test easily. Browsing material on the base machine, from another ReplayTV, or from the PC file server is takes a single button push. The ReplayTVs handle program contention intelligently, offering to offload a conflicted recording slot to a "spare" ReplayTV on the network.

    The clever Java program DVArchive [sourceforge.net] uses uPnP to imitate a ReplayTV and enables you to upload, stream, or move recorded content from the auto-discovered ReplayTVs. In effect, each ReplayTV acts like a big, external MPEG-2 capture card with lots of ports and functionality.

    All ReplayTVs on the network can, of course, stream from any DVArchive-equipped file server to any ReplayTV.

    You can even schedule DVArchive to automatically grab recorded material from the ReplayTVs on a batch basis, providing an easy way to create large archives. I have set up some watched folders where new material gets automatically batch encoded to MPEG-4 (xvid) for archiving.

    There's a big user community associated with DVArchive [planetreplay.com].

    All in all I am very satisfied with my ReplayTV setup. It is totally integrated into my home media setup (1 TB RAID-5 file server) and works effortlessly. The ReplayTVs automatically skip adverts (works pretty well) and there's an active between ReplayTV units. Useful if you want to pick up a season half-way through. [planetreplay.com]

    I avoided Tivo, partly because of cost, but mainly because of its incipient DRM. I was afraid I would have to expend significant effort to create a spouse-friendly PVR system but thankfully my networked ReplayTVs have obviated this requirement for a while.
  • GBPVR (Score:3, Informative)

    by IanBevan (213109) * on Friday January 23, 2004 @10:27PM (#8072699) Homepage
    GBPVR [gbpvr.com] is pretty new, Windows based and darned nice looking to boot. Written by a buddy of mine, it shows what you can do in a few weeks when you put your mind to it..
  • by meowsqueak (599208) on Friday January 23, 2004 @10:30PM (#8072717)
    ... thanks for wasting my time.

    This isn't an article about how Linux 'Tivo-like' software is unsuitable, unavailable or too difficult to use or configure - it's about how this particular person couldn't get past the BIOS 'no floppy controller found' message when rebooting and therefore gave up on Linux completely. There's absolutely NOTHING useful in that article for anyone interested in doing something similar with Linux.

  • by iamhassi (659463) on Friday January 23, 2004 @10:31PM (#8072722) Journal
    The guy makes building a PC sound like pulling teeth:
    "When I booted up the unit, I found that neither my CD/DVD Drive, nor my Hard Disk were recognized...Two hours later God spoke to me...look at the back of the hard drive and compare the jumper positions...Jumpers are little brackets that must be moved to tell a piece of hardware what role it will play as part of your computer."

    to make a long story short, brain surgeon guy had the hd set to slave so it wouldn't boot. Like, duh. Course it took him 2 hours to realize it and God had to tell him too.

    No offense guy, but MythTV wasn't designed for you. Get a Tivo. You'll be happier. It's simple. Pretty buttons.

  • by miketang16 (585602) on Friday January 23, 2004 @10:37PM (#8072742) Journal
    After reading this, I lost all faith in this guy's opinion: A few sites recommended that I use the Fedora installation disks and find a utility called"Grub" to disallow Linux from searching for my nonexistant floppy drive.
  • by leereyno (32197) on Friday January 23, 2004 @11:15PM (#8072875) Homepage Journal
    I've had my Radeon All in Wonder working since mid 2002. It does a beautiful job of recording TV in both Mpeg2 and DivX format. I use a Pioneer DVD burner to create DVD's that I can play in any compatible console player. The only qualm I have with the it is that the included software to let you view TV listings doesn't work, or at least not without switching the input to the built-in tuner. I really don't know why the thing even has a tuner at this point. Who in their right mind is going to use an RF input instead of the composite or s-video?

    Now some of you may be wondering how I'm doing this. Well I'm doing it under Windows 2000 is how. When there is a Linux solution that works as well I may switch, but I'm not going to go out of my way to avoid a good solution just because it runs on top of Windows. People who make choices based upon emotionally driven ideology instead of practical considerations usually don't get as far as people who do the opposite. So while I may prefer Linux to Windows in general, my preference is based upon the technical and social merits of Linux, not upon some quasi-religious hatred of Windows.

    I work with someone who is at least as good as I am with Unix, and is most likely far better. Her superiors are wanting her to support Windows now as well and she is fit to be tied. Her hatred of M$ and Windows is such that she just can't do it. Unfortunately Windows is not going anywhere. Refusing to deal with it doesn't make it go away, it just makes its presence that much more of a problem. It is better to keep your friends close and your enemies closer. If I can't make windows jump then that makes me that much less powerful a hacker (!=Cracker) and that much less valuable to whomever I work for.

    I think having a Linux PVR solution would be great, but going out of one's way to use alpha and beta quality stuff that is a pain to get configured and working just to avoid using Windows is pretty damned silly unless you're one of the developers.

    Lee

  • by glinden (56181) * on Friday January 23, 2004 @11:39PM (#8072997) Homepage Journal
    ExtremeTech [extremetech.com] has a good recent article [extremetech.com] on building your own home theater PC (basically, a high end PC-based PVR). Nice configuration they got there. I'm thinking of doing something similar, but with the Antec Overture [antec-inc.com] case.
  • Hardware Specs (Score:3, Informative)

    by RedPhoenix (124662) on Saturday January 24, 2004 @01:02AM (#8073341)
    I've just finished building a mythtv-based system, and agree with several other posters that hardware choice is absolutely critial.

    I'm normally hardware and distribution agnostic, but had very good results with the following combo:
    * Fedora FC1
    * Axel T's apt-rpm of mythtv-suite and ivtv drivers (nothing better than an apt-get install mythtv-suite, and watching it go...)
    * The following hardware from www.minipc.com.au:
    * Shuttle SN45G nForce2 Ultra
    * Athlon 2700+
    * 512 Mb 333 RAM
    * 120Gb HDD, 8MB, Seagate
    * Mitsubishi DVD +/-R/RW
    * Hauppauge PVR-350
    * Follow the bouncing ball from http://wilsonet.com/mythtv/, http://ivtv.writeme.ch/tiki-index.php?page=TvOutPa l and http://ivtv.writeme.ch/tiki-index.php?page=TvOutHo wto

    The shuttle is VERY quiet, and works great with mythtv. Some key 'gotchas' I encountered on the way:
    * Have the nvidia drivers handy on a CD after installation, or the network card won't work.
    * Make sure you're date/time is set correctly on your system (several hours stuffing around with TV guide data and XMLTV before I caught the fact that I was 1 year off!)
    * The Australian default channel positions are often replicated higher up in the spectrum - the 'higher' versions may be the defaults for your area.. I was starting to worry that my tuner card was a dud.

    For anyone that wants a one-system mythtv box, I'd recommend grabbing the same specs (probably from the same location if you're in Oz - prices were pretty good for Australia).

    Red.
  • by Awptimus Prime (695459) on Saturday January 24, 2004 @01:19AM (#8073413)
    Hmm. If you just wait until a special, you can get a PVR w/ dual tuners for free by switching your video provider (CAT/SAT).. There's always some special going on by one of the major companies. Yeah, you'll get a 12 month contract, but whoopee-do.

    $29/mo x 12mo = $348.00. That's for a year of basic satellite service (~125 channels) with a 40 hour unit for 'free'. As the PVR prices continue to tumble, you'll find that PVR units will become standard-with-service in a couple of years.

    Sure, "hacking" is fun, but only when it's improving something and learning in the process. I know Linux/BSD as well as I ever care to, so there's nothing new to learn by typing 'rpm -i Myth' or 'make install' and edit a conf file, or two, after building a new box. I've seen too many people refer to this as hacking, thus my mention of it. Don't call it that unless you are writing your own code or have either utilized a soldering gun or dremmel in your project.

    Don't get me wrong, I am not critizing people's efforts. I think it's great that folks are using this to learn something new. But, it hardly replaces a set-top PVR or saves any money.

    Here's the reasons, as I see them:

    Multiple tuners - lets you record one show while watching another, record two shows while watching another previously recorded one. This issue has only ever been responded to with "You watch too much TV" cracks, but I watch about 4 hours a week and have two series with over-lapping schedules. If I had one tuner, I would miss one of them.

    Realtime encoding/decoding - This goes with the multiple tuners issue. My unit can encode two shows at once while playing a third one back. This is all done without any slowdowns on a dinky CPU.

    Remotes - A task specific remote. VCR style controls, never have to touch a keyboard. No dead buttons. No extra buttons.

    Wife/child friendly - If it crashes, the most you ever do is pull the card and power cycle. Boots in 15 seconds and picks up where it left off (recording or playing back), no loss in material except for the off-time. I don't want them having to worry about ever having to see a console or have any bugs surface that can't be fixed by a power cycle or press of a button on the remote.

    No fuss in the event of a failure - If a lease or in warranty: Call your SAT/CAT provider and they will Fed Ex you a whole new unit in the even of a failure. If it's old and you own it, then simply take advantage of the market and switch providers for 12 months, get a free new one.

    I know some folks are very dependant or faithful to one provider. Don't be. They all just want your money, just because one has a cooler name and you like blue icons better, that doesn't mean you need to not play the market. There's plenty of money to be saved and the tactic of branding is just that, a marketing tactic. Shop around, get cool stuff for nothing, enjoy!

    • But, it hardly replaces a set-top PVR or saves any money.

      Not true. My PC PVR does far far more than a Tivo would ever dream of, and it can do it for much less.

      For instance, I can edit out commercials, credits, intros, etc., or I can use some programs that will automatically edit out commercials.

      I can network my machines cheaply (NICs are practically free), and copy files any way I choose.

      I can record videos to VCD, or SVCDs with my cheapo CD-recorder, or I can spend $100 for a DVD-Recorder and start ma

  • PVR Hardware (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 24, 2004 @03:20AM (#8073770)
    Just a quick plug for the PVR Hardware Database at http://pvrhw.goldfish.org [goldfish.org] :) It contains a database of people's homebuilt PVR systems and their experiences which can help when deciding on what hardware to buy and what software to use.
  • by ajs318 (655362) <sd_resp2@eaRASPrthshod.co.uk minus berry> on Saturday January 24, 2004 @06:17AM (#8074184)
    I was thinking of building myself some kind of PVR too. I suppose I could have got myself a Sky Plus [www.sky.tv] box, only this would have meant getting a dish -- and I happen to think they're ugly, compared to a cable buried discreetly under the pavement. I had the specs in my mind, and went out looking for parts.

    Then in Dixons [dixons.co.uk], I found the Philips DVDR-70 DVD+RW recorder. At 279.99, I snapped it up. This machine needs the more expensive DVD+RW discs. It can also use DVD+Rs, but the functionality is a bit more limited with one-time media. There are only two SCARTs, and you'll need both of them for the TV and the satellite/cable decoder; but it does have audio/video/SV ins on the front {meant for a camcorder so designated CAM1} which you can use in an emergency, and audio/video/SV outs around the back. As you would expect on any DVD player, the TV SCART has RGB out; but unlike a VCR the auxiliary SCART has RGB in.

    Chapter points are added automatically during recording, or you can add them by hand - and the ability to block certain chapters allows you to implement a form of ad-skipping, which is vital for most cable/satellite recordings. The picure is rock-solid even at six-hour compression. It will play MP3 audio CDs through your TV or hi-fi, but not multisession discs - you'll have to burn them in one go. This should mean those annoying copy-protected discs will play fine, though, and there's no mention of disabling the digital audio out during certain kinds of playback {but I haven't been able to test this}.

    Downsides? No HDD so you can't record and play back at the same time, and the picture blanks out while the machine is busy. No RF modulator, so you have to use the A/V connections; but you'd be throwing away the advantages of DVD anyway. And I didn't build it myself.

    Conclusion: Worth the price, and you'll soon get to live with the quirks. Expect newer models to answer them anyway.

    ****
  • This is stupid. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by rsheridan6 (600425) on Saturday January 24, 2004 @07:06AM (#8074304)
    The guy who wrote the article never even INSTALLED LINUX, and the slashdot story reads "Makes you wonder if current Linux PVR apps are just too much of a pain to get working well?"

    Yeah, like it's MythTV's fault that Fedora Linux didn't recognize his lack of a floppy drive.

    I have to wonder if Knoppix would have successfully automagically configured his hardware.

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