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Television Media Technology

PVR's Head-to-Head: MythTV vs. Microsoft MCE 327

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the two-enter-one-leaves dept.
asciimonster writes "AnandTech has completed its second review of set-top box Personal Video Recorders. After checking out the Linux-based MythTV, previously covered here on slashdot, they compared it to Microsoft's Windows XP Media Center Edition 2004. 'Our analysis has proved that though Media Center Edition 2004 is a boxed package that is easy to set up and configure, it looks amazingly beautiful, has great features such as On-Demand content, and is fully supported by Microsoft. However, for the enthusiast, MythTV takes the gold for its greater support for a variety of hardware and software codecs.'"
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PVR's Head-to-Head: MythTV vs. Microsoft MCE

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  • by garcia (6573) * on Thursday September 16, 2004 @05:07PM (#10271162) Homepage
    Unfortunately, we have a large issue with the amount of disk space that the MPEG2 codec consumes. A 15-minute clip of video can take as much as 400MB. MythTV does not perform much better when video is downloaded at high quality, but we have the option to transcode, or re-render the MPEG stream into something a little more versatile. For example, we can compress our cartoon captures down to a lower quality MPEG1 codec without sacrificing much quality; or with a XviD plugin, we can transcode our entire library into MPEG4 in the background. Note that we are using the same Sempron 3100+ processor in both machines!

    How well would the transcoding to XViD work when they have sacrificed the CPU to the encoding gods? Wouldn't the machine take a serious hit trying to record and transcode at the same time when they aren't using a hardware encoder?

    In this analysis, we are taking video capture from analog cable. We are able to capture digital cable from a digital cable feed as well, but it requires the MCE machine to use a special IR module that actually controls the digital cable box. This can be done with MythTV under LIRC as well.

    I have a Tivo and attempted to use the IR modules to control it before caving in and getting the serial control. From what I read the IR control is a pain in the ass and switches channels extremely slowly giving you a lag feel which for some is rather annoying. They don't mention that in this review though.

    Of course, on the MythTV machine, we are actually able to skip the commercials entirely. MythTV surpasses MCE completely in this respect. During our tests, 9 out of 10 commercial breaks were skipped flawlessly. ReplayTV's accuracy may be slightly higher than this, but for a free solution, Myth does an excellent job.

    This is a minor annoyance for me being a Tivo user. I really wish I could easily do this. FF'ing the commercials is easy and the Tivo does do a good job once you get the hang of it but I would LOVE to see them just gone completely.

    From what I can see MCE is really beautiful. You get what you pay for though. I'd love to have the time to play with MythTV (and buy all the hardware) but it seems like you can get the package complete with your DRM'd OS from MS with little pain.

    Honestly I am glad that I went w/even less painful option of Tivo but that's me.
    • How well would the transcoding to XViD work when they have sacrificed the CPU to the encoding gods? Wouldn't the machine take a serious hit trying to record and transcode at the same time when they aren't using a hardware encoder?

      Transcoding happens after the program is finished recording. For best results though, use something with a hardware MPEG encoder to avoid said sacrifices. A Hauppauge PVR-250 does the job nicely. Two do it even better.

      I love my MythTV HTPC... I thought about acquiring a Tivo sev
      • Well the article says (obviously they could be wrong) or with a XviD plugin, we can transcode our entire library into MPEG4 in the background.

        So they are encoding a stream that was already captured in the background (I assume while other encoding could be going on) which would make for a SERIOUS CPU hit because they chose to save a couple extra bucks by not using the hardware MPEG encoder.

        • Quoted: MythTV does not perform much better when video is downloaded at high quality, but we have the option to transcode, or re-render the MPEG stream into something a little more versatile.

          This is what I was commenting on.
          MythTV will transcode a recording after it is recorded into a different format.

          So they are encoding a stream that was already captured in the background (I assume while other encoding could be going on) which would make for a SERIOUS CPU hit because they chose to save a couple extra bucks by not using the hardware MPEG encoder.

          The PVR-250 (most commonly used hardware encoder in conjunction with MythTV) encodes into MPEG2 which is the codec they were taking issue with. There are MPEG4 encoders, but they mostly deal with DVB signals rather than standard analog cable.

          Compressing to DivX/MPEG4 from MPEG2 can yield tremendous savings. I personally dont do it, but I understand those that do. I would rather spend the extra $$$ from the cpu on a (much) larger hard drive to host the recordings.

          To be honest though... there's not much else to do with your CPU. If you have a hardware encoder on your tv capture, and a hardware decoder in your video playback.... what else are you going to do with your CPU?
    • I would LOVE to see [commercials] just gone completely ... I am glad that I went w/even less painful option of Tivo but that's me."

      It's not too late to renounce your youthful indiscretion and come over to the dark side. ReplayTV, no commercials [replayfaqs.com], no DRM, internet show sharing...
      • by The Only Druid (587299) on Thursday September 16, 2004 @06:13PM (#10271829)
        Here's the thing, I've got a Hughes DVR40 that I've hacked to allow both a larger HD (120 instead of the stock 40 gigs) and a variety of network stuff (like extraction). You can do all this, leaving your original drive untouched meaning if you have a problem you're free to reinstall the original before calling tech support. As such, and considering the low level of work [esp. for a /. reader] to do these hacks, the ReplayTV is barely advantageous.

        As for the commercials...the stock fast-forward command on the Tivo has three speeds; if I click to the second speed, it takes about 1-2 seconds on average to get through a block of commercials. Moreover, when you hit play after noticing that your show began again, it understands that you react a split second after seeing the show, so it actually rewinds a bit (and it may be looking for a black screen, I'm not sure). As such, its had a rate of well of 99% correctly jumping RIGHT to after the commercial break. I have a hard time believing the ReplayTV option is much better...
        • by meehawl (73285) <meehawl DOT spam AT gmail DOT com> on Thursday September 16, 2004 @11:01PM (#10273777) Homepage Journal
          I have a hard time believing the ReplayTV option is much better

          Here's the thing... the ReplayTV commercial skip really is that much better. The fact that it's so much better than Tivo is one major reason the TV companies spent so much time suing the various RTV owners but left Tivo untouched.

          As it records the RTV monitors the record stream and analyzes for commercial break cues such as fade-outs, fade-ins, sudden increases in volume normalization, stuff like that.

          Along with the MPGs it writes, it also writes associated XML info files with chunk sequence information. So during playback, if you decide to "Skip Commercials", then the RTV just jumps right past those ad blocks. You don't even get a notification that they were there. No fiddling with remote buttons. It Just Works.

          Well, around 95% of the time it works. For those other times, you can of course hit a manual 30-second skip on the remote, or customize a button for longer skips, or punch in the number of minutes you want to jump ahead. I'd imagine the Tivo is similar.

          The fact that the RTV tags the content chunks has some cool applications. The first is that when and if you decide to move the MPGs over the LAN to your PC/Mac/Linux for editing or conversion to DVD or XVid, then with the excellent RTVTools and ReVue you can choose to transcode the entire stream, or just output the commercial-stripped stream. It's a time saver.

          The second cool feature is a consequence of tagging the commercials: inverting playbvack to skip all content and play only commercials. I use this for the Superbowl - just play it back on "Content Skip" and you don't have to fast-forward through several hours of tedious homo-eroticism and tight bums but can just sit back and watch all the adverts uninterruped.

          And as for hacking your Tivo to add extra disks and network connectivity, then Bravo! But you know all those things come standard with ReplayTV, right, and the network sharing is unencumbered by HMO's clunky DRM?
    • by smackjer (697558) on Thursday September 16, 2004 @05:25PM (#10271363) Homepage
      From what I read the IR control is a pain in the ass and switches channels extremely slowly giving you a lag feel which for some is rather annoying.

      If you're channel-surfing the traditional way (up, up, up, up, up, up, up), then yeah, the IR transmitter sucks. There's a good 2 or 3 second delay before the new channel comes up.

      However, if you use Tivo the way it's supposed to be used, via the on-screen program guide, or even better -- time shifting -- it's not as much of an issue.

    • How well would the transcoding to XViD work when they have sacrificed the CPU to the encoding gods? Wouldn't the machine take a serious hit trying to record and transcode at the same time when they aren't using a hardware encoder?

      Well, if you're soft-encoding, you can choose any encoder you'd like. I'm not a Myth user, but it seems transcoding is only necessary because the test setup is streaming MPEG2 off of the hardware encoder.

    • by Awptimus Prime (695459) on Thursday September 16, 2004 @07:15PM (#10272427)
      Honestly I am glad that I went w/even less painful option of Tivo but that's me.

      Don't be ashamed of taking the easy route. After having experienced each of these solutions, a simple PVR like a $70 DSR704 by Phillips is superior to any PC based solution. Here's what you get for $70:

      - 30 hours (40 gig drive)
      - auto recording using your "thumbs up/down" buttons based on genre, actors, category, etc.
      - the ability to record two different shows at once while watching one of them, or to watch one channel while recording on another
      - tuner integration
      - no loss in quality since the raw digital signal is recorded
      - search based recording, seasons passes, and other means to record upcoming shows. You can even do an "On Demand" type thing by just recording your PPV programs Thursday, then your movies will be waiting Friday night.

      Upon modding a DSR704 you can: toss in extra hard drives, use the USB ports as network adapters, rip/edit/encode any shows on the HDD via FTP, etc..

      The people who say MythTV or Media Edition are "better" solutions likely do not use their setups in a living room with a wife and kids around; or they are not taking into account the household's ability to manage the system. With a Tivo, all you need is a remote and if there is a problem you press one button to nuke and pave the system to start over from scratch.

      The only dislike I have for the Tivo is the flat list of programs it displays. I miss the old Microsoft Ultimate TV system, which categorized by titles. This helped reduce clutter when the drive starts to fill up.

      On the issue of DRM, I can only say that DRM is there to protect the people who make the shows you so want to record. If you want every episode of The Family Guy without commercials and in perfect quality, I would suggest purchasing it on DVD and not cry about DRM on a recording device. If you are going to steal things, then go ahead, but again, circumvent the DRM using information obtained on Google and don't come crying to /. about it. :)

      • by cayenne8 (626475) on Thursday September 16, 2004 @09:50PM (#10273387) Homepage Journal
        "The only dislike I have for the Tivo is the flat list of programs it displays. I miss the old Microsoft Ultimate TV system, which categorized by titles. This helped reduce clutter when the drive starts to fill up."

        Take a look at your Program Guide on Tivo. You can now change the settings on it to show the recorded programs by title. I'm not at home right now to remember the settings..but, go look at tivo.com and I'm sure you can find how to do it.

        "On the issue of DRM, I can only say that DRM is there to protect the people who make the shows you so want to record. If you want every episode of The Family Guy without commercials and in perfect quality, I would suggest purchasing it on DVD and not cry about DRM on a recording device. If you are going to steal things, then go ahead, but again, circumvent the DRM using information obtained on Google and don't come crying to /. about it. "

        I do believe that recording TV shows off to tape, DVD, or whatever for private use is covered by fair use, and the old Betamax case that is so oft debated around here on /.

        Nothing wrong with this, perfectly legal...

        • Thanks for the suggestion. I went to the trouble of modding my box and putting it to use without actually opening a manual. Go figure. :)

          I do believe that recording TV shows off to tape, DVD, or whatever for private use is covered by fair use, and the old Betamax case that is so oft debated around here on /.

          Yeah. This is true. But, modifying a system that utilizes DRM to actually practice your Fair Usage rights can get you in trouble under the DMCA. That is the point I was driving at, but failed to com
  • Myth install (Score:5, Interesting)

    by JoeNiner (758431) on Thursday September 16, 2004 @05:07PM (#10271165)
    The biggest problem I remember them having the first time was the Myth (and Linux) install. Then in this review they go with KnoppMyth and gloss over the 20 minute setup...
    • Re:Myth install (Score:4, Interesting)

      by garcia (6573) * on Thursday September 16, 2004 @05:13PM (#10271240) Homepage
      Yeah, they do make it seem trivial to get everything setup with Knoppix Myth as if there is nothing really required from the user to get it going.

      From what I understand you still have to install from the CD to the HD in order to get it all setup. It's not exactly like you can pop a KnoppMyth CD into a machine w/a WinTV card and start timeshifting.

      You get what you pay for though. If you spend the money on the software you are locked in to what MSFT wants to do (DRM, on demand, etc) but you don't have to spend the time tinkering to get it working.
      • Re:Myth install (Score:3, Informative)

        by elmegil (12001)
        KnoppMyth rocks. It is the only way to do the MythTV install quickly without either being an expert about how all the moving pieces fit together or having an exact clone of one of the developer's machines. If you want a no-tinkering solution, just buy a Tivo. And as for installing to HD, if you don't have a HD, where were you planning to store all this video data you're generating?
      • Re:Myth install (Score:3, Interesting)

        by rusty0101 (565565)
        One of the FAQ questions for KnoppMyth is if they will ever build a CD where the server can be run from the CD, rather than having to install it to the HD.

        I think the logic is that you could then have pre-defined partitions set up to be the hosts for the database, and the video capture files. Optionally the entire hard disk could be used for program information and recorded video.

        With sufficient system memory, you could do what some ISO distributions do, and load everthing to memory, and you would even ha
    • I had the same issue with the review... it doesn't make sense to me. They compare PQ with two different types of cards, and compare setups with the harder to setup stand alone myth (compared to knoppmyth)...

      i'm glad it wasn't just me who was confused on their methodology there...

      e.
    • Re:Myth install (Score:2, Insightful)

      by plj (673710)
      First of all: following the pure /. style, I admit that I didn't RTFA this time. Besides, I'm currently drunk.

      Media Center Edition 2004 is a boxed package that is easy to set up and configure, it looks amazingly beautiful, has great features such as On-Demand content, and is fully supported by Microsoft.

      But I still have to say: just what I expect of home entertainment systems; easy to use, looks good, useful features and good vendor support.

      This is exactly why my private laptop is a Macintosh. Yeah, so

      • Besides, I'm currently drunk.

        ...
        Given the MS's reputation I truly hate to say this, but if this is what MCE 2004 really is, then I'm a potential customer

        Obviously drunk. And not only will he wake up in the morning with a DRM'd DVR, but the woman sleeping on his arm will be really ugly.

  • cost? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Chuck Bucket (142633) on Thursday September 16, 2004 @05:10PM (#10271198) Homepage Journal
    I looked into this last year, but the holding out point was the cost...it didn't seem to be cheap enough to warrant not buying a Tivo. Still, you wouldn't have to pay the monthy fee (yech!)

    Has anyone 'rolled their own' and have a price/features overview? Is it worth it yet?

    CBSDFEW@#$%^&*))(
    • Re:cost? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by CyberKnet (184349) <slashdot@cyberknetTWAIN.net minus author> on Thursday September 16, 2004 @05:19PM (#10271310) Homepage Journal
      It will very likely never be cheaper to build a MythTV box rather than buy a Tivo. I had been very lucky up until recently and got *amazing* deals on all the hardware I bought... but I still eneded up paying about $150.

      MythTV will never be the "cheaper" alternative, but it will always be the superior alternative in my opinion. The extra features (MythMusic, MythWeb (!!!), MythDVD etc) are determining factors that keep me with Myth instead of buying a Tivo.
      • I agree that it will always be better, and 150$ sounds totally cheap to have this kind of freedom/expandability. Any advice on cases? Do you use Wifii with it? Is it pretty quiet?

        I'm going to start looking into this, it looks like MythTV is finally mature enough (for me anyway! ;))

        Thanks

        CB
        • Re:cost? (Score:5, Informative)

          by CyberKnet (184349) <slashdot@cyberknetTWAIN.net minus author> on Thursday September 16, 2004 @05:37PM (#10271476) Homepage Journal
          Bear in mind the following:
          1) I got the (dual 633mhz PIII) PC with TV-out for free. It isn't *quite* fast enough sometimes. Most (95%) of the time it's fine.
          2) I got the TV Tuner cards with hardware MPEG encoders for $50 each... 1/3 the normal price.
          3) I traded a laptop hard drive for an ultra quiet Seagate Barracuda V 120GB
          4) The other $50 was for an I/R keyboard.

          My machine is definitely is not quiet, but it can be done (for more money).
          Case wise, a lot of people are happy with the ASUS pundit. A lot just use something painted gloss black.

          A few people have reported 802.11g to have enough bandwidth to handle video playback. 802.11b will definitely not cut the mustard. I got rid of my wireless gear after getting MythTV and wired my house up. It is (much) cheaper than getting wireless gear, and now I can copy the 2GB video files off at a decent speed. Wireless (802.11g) was SO slow. And the microwave next door or a cordless phone would kill it.

          But yes, MythTV is pretty mature these days... In fact, my hardware let me down before the software did. (old 10GB os drive died).
    • Re:cost? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by squeegee_boy (319210)
      Has anyone 'rolled their own' and have a price/features overview? Is it worth it yet?

      Well, since I can't get Tivo service at any price (Canada), Myth works better for me. It's cost me well over $1500 so far, but that's for a 3-tuner backend and two frontends. Not too bad for 3 complete computers.

      It sure as heck didn't save me any time, but I learned waaay more than I ever wanted to know about video on Linux. You probably won't ever same money on a roll-your-own, but for me and others, money isn't en
    • "I looked into this last year, but the holding out point was the cost...it didn't seem to be cheap enough to warrant not buying a Tivo. Still, you wouldn't have to pay the monthy fee (yech!)

      Has anyone 'rolled their own' and have a price/features overview? Is it worth it yet?"

      it's really less about "cost" and more about freedom and the ability to customize and add functionality without waiting for the corporate groupthink to ask the FCC first if it's ok or not.

      *shrug* In order for it to be cost effective
    • I agree... I want a Tivo without the monthly costs. Someday I may (but probably won't) get around to setting up a myth box... what I'd rather find is some enterprising intelligent geek who gets it down pat and will sell me one for a reasonable profit.

      Given the Linux mentality, this probably means I'll end up with the Microsoft alternative. I don't mean that in a trolling way, I just haven't seen any examples to date of a consumer orientated (as opposed to corporation), for profit implementation of some o
  • MythTV (Score:5, Interesting)

    by polecat_redux (779887) <spamwich.gmail@com> on Thursday September 16, 2004 @05:10PM (#10271204)
    It seems great for cable, but how well does it interface with a satellite-based service such as DirecTV? Since in that case, all tuning is controlled by the receiver, MythTV would be helpless - unless you could wire an IR emitter to it. But even then, the software would still have only passive control over the receiver (what if it goes to change a channel, but the reciever is off?).
    • It seems great for cable, but how well does it interface with a satellite-based service such as DirecTV? Since in that case, all tuning is controlled by the receiver, MythTV would be helpless - unless you could wire an IR emitter to it. But even then, the software would still have only passive control over the receiver (what if it goes to change a channel, but the reciever is off?).

      Does MSCE have an advantage here? Not that I am aware of. I do understand that this is a huge benefit of a TiVo or ReplayTV o
    • Re:MythTV (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Em Ellel (523581) on Thursday September 16, 2004 @05:17PM (#10271274)
      It seems great for cable, but how well does it interface with a satellite-based service such as DirecTV? Since in that case, all tuning is controlled by the receiver, MythTV would be helpless - unless you could wire an IR emitter to it. But even then, the software would still have only passive control over the receiver (what if it goes to change a channel, but the reciever is off?).

      MythTV does support IR or Serial changing of the channel, but if you have DirecTV you'd be foolish not to use DirecTivo - at prices anywhere from free to $100 and direct recording of MPEG stream from the satelite (I.e. no transcoding, same exact quality as original) plus support for 2 tuners in each Tivo unit.

      Of course DirecTivo does not offer anything other than recording and playback of TV, so you will still need something to play MP3s, video files, etc.
    • Re:MythTV (Score:2, Interesting)

      by JoeNiner (758431)
      I believe there is an IR controller plug in (software and hardware). The bigger question with DirecTV is, "Is MythTV worth the trouble and expense, given that a DirecTivo can be gotten cheap, and the monthly fee for DirecTivo is the same as what DirecTV would charge for the 2nd Tuner (which is included in the DirecTivo Box)?" I went with DirecTivo, because it simply works. I get two tuners controlled on one screen, and it is smaller than any HTPC I have seen, especiallyt if you include the 2 (necessary)
    • Re:MythTV (Score:2, Informative)

      There is IR controller module for Myth to control such devices. If you have Dtivo you can actually controll the Dtivo directly from the Myth system via ethernet (requires adding one to your Dtivo , but if you havent done this already...you must be beaten!!!) Anyways yes Myth can control this no problem. IF you have Sat reciever only then it is controlled via the IR module. Just like a lot of other equipment controlls it. Who the hell turns off their reciever to start with....turning it off at the switch
    • Honestly, what difference would it make? If the receiver is off, it's recording nothing anyway.

      This happens occasionally to me with my digital cable box and tivo, when they do firmware upgrades on the cable box.

      The result, you lose programming until you notice that the cable box/satellite reciever has been turned off. This happens so infrequently in practice that it's effectively a non-issue.
  • by Colonel Cholling (715787) on Thursday September 16, 2004 @05:11PM (#10271215)
    AnandTech has completed it's second review

    It's official. I'm the last surviving human who knows how to use an apostrophe properly.
  • The question is how do you get by with a list of free TV guide so you can program at will with no subscription.

  • Tv guide like CDDB? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Chuck Bucket (142633) on Thursday September 16, 2004 @05:12PM (#10271228) Homepage Journal
    Is there databases out there operating like CDDB for TV shows? I always thought this is what would (eventually) kill the monthly pay Tivo like services.

    That would have the 'wow' factor that would make me start to build one of these MythTV beasts.

    PCBVS&D*
    • well, not exactly... (not sure if CDDB is the right analogy here though... not sure what you mean...)

      if you are talking about getting TV guide data free as in beer... you can sign up for a free account with zap2it. google for xmltv =)

      e.
    • by Zardus (464755)
      Most responses to this post so far mentioned XMLTV, which is an icky solution that's no longer supported by MythTV. The far more elegant one is to use MythTV's relatively new Zap2It [zap2it.com] support [mythtv.org].

      All XMLTV did anyways for North America was query Zap2It, and the DataDirect service of Zap2It that Myth uses now is much less errorprone and much faster, although you have to take a survey every 3 months if you want a free account there.
      • by MrNemesis (587188)
        XMLTV is still supported by TiVO, just not in America - there are MythTV users outside of the US you know ;)

        XMLTV is a combination of site scrapers and XML downloaders that myth can use to insert records into the database, and is available for lots of common regions. However, as the parents says, this was often quite ugly. We're beginning to see a shift to commercial services offerring flat XML files for download via Myth, usually for a price (be it marketing info, money, whatever).
  • TiVo anyone? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by LostCluster (625375) * on Thursday September 16, 2004 @05:18PM (#10271287)
    It's interesting to head-to-head MythTV and Microsofts WMC as two computer/TV units... but as far as I'm concerned I'm sticking with my TiVo as a unit that runs Linux and does nothing but drive my TV. Afterall, the more computing tasks you give a box, the more likely you are to crash it, and I demand high reliablity from my TV.
    • "I demand high reliablity from my TV."

      Why? It's TV. The world's not going to end if a crash causes you to miss the first five minutes of MythBusters...

    • Yup... (Score:2, Offtopic)

      by Da VinMan (7669)
      I'm with you on that one. TiVo presents a high realiability AND high quality experience. My only complaint is that I'm slowly filling up my TiVo with content that I don't want to delete.

      Is there an easy way offload that content from a series 2 TiVo without submitting to the "load tape in VCR, record shows one by one until tape is full (including overrun errors), get next tape, repeat" cycle?
      • Come on people open the damned box! Get online and read (try dealdatabase.com for starters!) How in the world do you claim to read /., be a tech head, and not know that you can hack the CRAP outta a TIVO! I myself am a huge supporter of Tivo....I have bought quite a few of these lovely boxes :) I run 2 currently at the house alone!!! But Myth is a much more free system with none of the restrictions that Tivo has. Also there are no FEES like Tivo charges (even their lifetime service is not for a lifeti
  • Does anybody have links to good info on MythTV and Linux support for the various HDTV tuner cards out there? I already have a tivo for the normal stuff.

    Last time I looked, Linux support for these cards was spotty to nonexistant-- if it has improved, I would love to dump windows for free software for recording HDTV.
    • One example (although for over the air ATSC DTV signals)

      pcHDTV HD-2000 [pchdtv.com]

      seems to be sold out (which is good and bad)

      e.
      • Interestingly, they've promised to come out with a next generation card, the HD-3000.

        For a long time it's been promised to come RSN, with pre-orders expected to be taken starting September 15.

        That was yesterday.

        Now, pre-orders are expected to be taken starting September 22 [pchdtv.com], with production and shipping a month later.

        I have two TiVo's that I like now (loaded to 200 GB on one) but an HDTV flat panel is in my near future (the Sharp 46 in LCD looks nice) and I'm like to try MythTV with one of these pcHDTV

    • Re:MythTV and HDTV? (Score:3, Informative)

      by MrNemesis (587188)
      There's a fair amount of documentation over at mythtv.org, and even more extensive hardware specs (alot of which was written by your truly - please edit it if you disagree!) over at the Myth wiki hardware section http://mythtv.info/moin.cgi/HardWare [mythtv.info].

      I'm based in the UK so don't know much about HDTV, but IIRC the only HDTV card that'll work under Linux (and Linux only) is available from PCHDTV http://pchdtv.com/ [pchdtv.com]
  • Uh-huh... (Score:2, Flamebait)

    by gUmbi (95629)
    However, for the enthusiast, MythTV takes the gold for its greater support for a variety of hardware and software codecs.'"

    Yeah, 'cause that's what I really care about when I'm wearing a nice ass-groove into the couch - that my codec is superior. Screw usability.
    • Re:Uh-huh... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Combuchan (123208) <.sean. .at. .emvis.net.> on Thursday September 16, 2004 @06:14PM (#10271839) Homepage
      You should be mindful of the codec. The .dvr-ms files that MCE produces are ENORMOUS and you can't do a flippant thing with them. I've searched for recoders but my efforts have been fruitless...maybe they're out there now but I don't care anymore as I have myth working mostly OK now.

      With Myth, you can automagically transcode to DivX in the background, and have the ability to store far more video files in the same amount of space. Thus, Myth lets your ass-groove flourish because you're not getting up nearly as much to go to Fry's to buy a new hard drive to store recordings. :P

      It should also be noted that the latest MythTV also has direct DVD ripping, and has the live TV in the on-screen guide. KnoppMyth should be incorporating this in the future.
  • I'm talking to a friend that wants to build one of these (or have me build it for them more likely), is this compatable with Satellite based broadcast, or just cable?

    As a cable user I'm really interested in this KnoppixMyth installer!

    CB
    • by MrNemesis (587188) on Thursday September 16, 2004 @05:31PM (#10271415) Homepage Journal
      If you can get output from your cable/sat device into your Mythbox capture card, then yes it's compatible.

      There are instructions on how to get your Mythbox to change channels on your cable/sat box in numerous tutorials all over the web.

      KnoppMyth is a good way of getting Myth up and running quickly, although most seasoned Myth users seem to prefer to use a full fledge distro in order to give easier configuration of all those peripheral devices. Gentoo, Debian unstable and FC1/2 are very popular choices.
  • by MrNemesis (587188) on Thursday September 16, 2004 @05:22PM (#10271329) Homepage Journal
    ...there are alot of problems with this review.

    Firstly, they try and compare software encoding offof any old bttv card to hardware encoding on a card like the PVR-250 (which Myth is more than capable of handling adequately). Apples and oranges.

    They make almost no mention of the many plugins Myth has available, such as the web browser, RSS syndication, weather, music, every kind of video ever (through mPlayer and/or Xine)...

    Almost complete non-mention of the way MythWeb (web-based MythTV control and viewing system) seamlessly integrates with the system, and allows you to do funky things with your Mythbox from work

    And they also ignore MythTV's *real* strength in that you can cluster as many computers and TV cards as you want into a single cohesive entertainment system spanning your entire house, thanks to it's funky client/server architecture.

    Very little objective/subjective comment on the relative merits of the interfaces

    Frankly, I find it rather difficult that they could put an entire Myth system together in little under 4 hours, especially since they seem to know little about Linux (for instance, it is practically impossible to compile MythTV in 20 minutes - it takes aaaaaggggggeeeeessss. Methinks they meant download and install rather than compile).

    Most of the review (and screenshots) seems to be spent on drooling over MCE's blue buttons. In short, not a very worthwhile or in-depth comparison IMHO.
    • i generally agree with your comment

      Unfortunately, MythTV took its first real stumble at DVD playback. Using the machine that we installed from scratch in Part I of the analysis, we had zero issues playing DVDs. Under KnoppMyth, the DVD completely refused to play. We would hear the DVD start up, spin and then just hang. Part of this may have to do with copy-protection, part of it may have to do with poorly constructed code. In either case, we can't watch "Nip Tuck" on the KnoppMyth machine without some ser

  • by iso (87585) <slash AT warpzero DOT info> on Thursday September 16, 2004 @05:23PM (#10271346) Homepage
    I'm curious to know where Freevo [sourceforge.net] stands in all of this. I installed MythTV and found it to be very clunky. I recently installed Freevo from the debian packages and had it up and running in literally 30 minutes! It seems a lot smoother than MythTV when using it, and it seems to be more extensible. On the downside all of the Freevo setup is done by editing a text file, but I've found it to be more solid than MythTV so far.

    Admittedly I only looked at MythTV for about a day on and off. Does anybody here with more experience with MythTV have an opinion of how MythTV and Freevo compare?
    • A little over a year ago I was using Freevo as a video tuner and programing lister. I was never able to get it to record any programs at all.

      My first few attempts at MythTV were not even that good.

      Once I found KnoppMyth, and installed MythTV through that distribution, I was able to do pretty much everything I was hoping Freevo would allow me to do, and then some.

      As to whether Freevo is in better shape than I experienced when I was trying it out, I can't say. I would presume it is. The problem I found was
  • Everyone forget about Freevo [sourceforge.net]? This is a kickass product too...
  • I stopped reading after the second or third page, where they describe a NEW MythTV system that's cheaper than the one in the first article, but then is followed with "note that all results are from the original system we described".

    Why the hell bring it up until after the main article then? Yes, you can make a really cheep MythTV box. It'll be LOUD AS HELL (i.e. not something you want in your living room while you're watching TV) and I doubt the quality would be as good as the originally described system

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 16, 2004 @05:32PM (#10271423)
    ...programming guide is implemented similarly in both instances. ...
    the feature that puts MCE on top in this screen is the live display on the bottom left.


    they must not have used mythtv much, if you enter the programming guide while watching tv, you get a miniature tv display in the corner as well.
  • Buy a TiVo! (Score:3, Informative)

    by ghideon (720955) on Thursday September 16, 2004 @05:34PM (#10271448)
    No, seriously.
    I speak as someone who put together a Myth box. Used a Via Nehamiah chipset, 120GB HDD, CD ROM, Hauppauge 350 PVR card, all in a box the size of one of my programming texts. And running Gentoo (found some really nice Gentoo specific kernel patches and ebuilds).
    Total cost was over $700. Biggest problem I had was that the Hauppage 350 drivers were literally months old. Yes, my Myth box kicks much arse. The web interface is slick, there's plug ins to do MP3 and video (and soon DVD IIRC), but for the amount of $$$ and time invested, a TiVo would have been so much easier.
  • Macintosh PVR? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by yet another coward (510) <yacoward@yah[ ]com ['oo.' in gap]> on Thursday September 16, 2004 @05:37PM (#10271477)
    With iDVD and similar software, I really wish there were something for Macintosh even close to MythTV or MCE. The EyeTV reports I have read contend that it is not reliable. The Hauppauge products for Apple get very little attention. The whole state of affairs is disappointing.
  • It's great except... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by otopico (32364)
    It doesn't have support for ATI AIW products. Granted, that isn't their fault.

    You can compare features, but until you can compare hardware, it's difficult to say which is more functional for the average user.

    That said, I'd go with MythTV just to keep from sending cash to Redmond.
  • by i)ave (716746) on Thursday September 16, 2004 @05:49PM (#10271580)
    From the Article:
    ...Media Center Edition 2004 is a boxed package that is easy to set up and configure, it looks amazingly beautiful, has great features such as On-Demand content, and is fully supported by Microsoft.
    ...MythTV takes the gold for its greater support for a variety of hardware and software codecs.

    Pardon my cynicism, but this isn't totally unlike saying:
    ...BMW 3-Series 2004 comes complete with everything you'll need, looks amazingly beautiful, has all the latest luxury features, and includes a 5-year 40,000 mile warranty.


    ...However, the 1996 Ford Taurus gets our recommendation because it will fit a wider variety of wheels, tires, mufflers and filters.
    • Actually it seems to be more like saying:

      ...McDonalds Happy Meals come packaged in a really nice box, looks good to eat, and comes with a nice toy, and is fully supported by McDonalds.

      ...However, the Home Cooking Restaurant gets our recommendation because it will fit a wider variety of tastes with its various food, drinks, and dessert.

      Of course neither one is really accurate; analogies never are. It depends on what's important to you, in the end. MythTV supports a large set of plugins you'll never

    • by spoco2 (322835)
      the analogy of:

      ...The BMW runs like a dream, works without fault, didn't require any specialist knowledge to set up.

      ...The kit car, while resulting in a supurb vehicle when finished, took months to build, required a degree in engineering, an assumed knowledge of how to install and use the individual pre-requisite components, and an ongoing desire to tinker under the bonnet to keep it humming along smoothly.

      I mean, really... have you looked [mythtv.org] at the documentation? And that's just about the PRE-REQUISITES
  • by Artifex (18308) on Thursday September 16, 2004 @05:59PM (#10271672) Journal
    I fully understand that for other people, other solutions are more appropriate, but I really prefer a dedicated ReplayTV unit right now, especially for the consistency and reliability, not to mention the cool remote, though I may roll my own when I eventually move to HD (there are no Replay HD or Replay+DVD offerings announced, and Tivo's HD is too encumbered out of the box for my needs).

    Not to beat a not-dead-yet horse, but ReplayTV [replaytv.com] recently dumped a lot of their 5040 units for $50 each, or $30 with a special coupon code (the latter seems to have been a mistake that they cancelled quickly). These are previous-generation models that can transfer shows to other Replay units of the same 50xx model line, something Tivo has not been able to do natively, before, and which is unfortunately dropped in the 55xx line. The 50xx line also has the controversial commercial advance feature, which was dropped on the 55xx line for legal reasons(it sometimes works, sometimes doesn't, but is nice when it works). With lifetime activation at $299 (or monthly fees that now vary depending on number of units), that means RTV is still a platform worth comparing against. Especially when you consider third-party tools like DVArchive [dvarchive.org] (java-based!) that exploit the XML interface of the units to copy programs off for safekeeping and later streaming, without any hacking of the box or transcoding of the native .mpgs or weird versions of mplayer [mplayerhq.hu], unlike Tivos, again.

    Oh, one more thing: people outside the US have managed to set up their legitimately-subscribed ReplayTVs with another tool called WIRNS (which you can find in AVSForum [avsforum.com], to scrape local show listings. I mention this because, even if ReplayTV as a company dies, owners will still have alternatives to keep their schedules from going dark. And a lot of owners are also joining Poopli [poopli.com], a website with the objective of making transfers between Replays easier.

    (No, I don't work for anybody making or selling these, nor do I own any of these websites. I'm just an owner of a 50xx that I've bumped up to 200GB with a simple patch-and-swap [sourceforge.net], very much like a Tivo owner would do. Before I bought my box, I had almost given up on tv entirely. Now, I'm looking forward to my next hard drive upgrade. And I really regret not buying another unit on sale).
  • I got burned a few years ago with a ATI AIW-Radeon...because I wanted to watch the stream not on the monitor but on a big screen TV.

    I never could get a good output signal using either a 27" tube or 65" rear projection.

    It really put me off of PVRs. But now I do have 3 TiVos which are very popular with everyone in the house...

    But does anyone *really* output their PVR (MS or Myth) to an actual TV? (or better yet--modulate it into a housewide video distribution system)?

  • by NetAngler (209960) on Thursday September 16, 2004 @06:20PM (#10271898) Homepage
    They mentioned this twice: "the feature that puts MCE on top in this screen is the live display on the bottom left" Um MythTv does this in the default Knoppmyth install, I don't know what they screwed up. Myth also lets you chnage the position.

    I will admit that Knoppmyth using mplayer for DVD's is sub par, I never had any problems playing after install (I use Xine so I can actually get DVD menus)

    "The ability to make changes to KnoppMyth after it has already been installed is one quality that it severely lacks" This one has me completely stumped, I but Microsoft doesn't let you change the program that plays DVDs. CDs, Videos, etc.

    I have to admit that the lack of radio support is frustrating, it would be cool if you could pause record, and playback radio just like TV. Although I've only seen FM cards, what about sports and talks radio????

    Yeah and the complete lack of mention of mythnews, mythweather, mythgame, burns me too.
  • What about the rest? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by LilMikey (615759) on Thursday September 16, 2004 @06:21PM (#10271902) Homepage
    The review adequately covered the TV watching aspects but oddly enough only covered the DVD and CallerID(?) plugins. What about MythGame, MythMusic, MythWeb, MythNews, MythWeather, MythVideo, etc? Does WinMCE have something like these?

    The reviewer also seemed to imply that the only way to get an MPEG4 is to record it in the default codec and then transcode it in the background to MPEG4. You can record directly from the card to Mpeg4 (if you have a software based card).
  • by Greyfox (87712) on Thursday September 16, 2004 @06:21PM (#10271907) Homepage Journal
    Between the combined noise of fans and disk drives, my last system sounded like a freaking 747 taking off. One of the things you get with that commercial PVR is a lot of engineering to keep it quiet. And I can STILL hear my Tivo's hard drive seek when the TV's off.

    You could go water cooling or go with an architecture that doesn't need cooling but that will either drive the price up or the CPU power of the system down. Or both.

    I'm just curious if the systems they built at the quoted prices would be something you'd want running in the living room 24x7...

  • Aaargh (Score:3, Informative)

    by Second_Derivative (257815) on Thursday September 16, 2004 @07:34PM (#10272595)
    MythTV wasted a month of my life (I was somewhat roped into installing it, otherwise I wouldn't get a replacement system for my aging laptop)

    Just off the top of my head you need to set up:

    - XMLTV grabbing and channel numbering. In the UK this is murderous... I ended up writing a scraper for the NTL EPG called tv_grab_uk_ntl, I'll prolly post it to the xmltv mailing list or summat.

    - Dual head X. nVidia makes this easyish if you're happy with XF86Config but running GNOME alongside is absolutely infuriating. It insists on drawing those damn bars on the TV display as well, and Myth needs to be focused to work properly. I still haven't found a solution to this. Not being able to use a desktop alongside is kind of a no-no. This is unforgivable because marking a window Always On Top makes it go above the bars. Why doesn't Myth do this.

    - Infra-red is a nightmare. You have to muck about with settings.pro to make it link against lirc (ever heard of autoconf?), and there's no graphical toolkit for it so you have to edit lircrc and restart and try it and edit and restart and... Oh yeah did I mention the keyboard interface is REALLY damn hard to usefully map to a remote control? It doesn't even have an explicit PLAY button ffs!

    - Infra red part 2. This isn't so much a problem with MythTV but setting up an infra red blaster to work with a cable box is also a pain. I subscribe to NTL so I bought something called RedEye (google for Pace Redeye) and modified the software that came with it a bit to run as a daemon that listens of a FIFO to avoid the startup delay on the device every time the channel needs to be switched. I shall release that patched version back to the owner too once I've got some time spare.

    I think this is more to do with LIRC, but LIRC as it is now really feels like some sort of hobbyist kit (complete with the circuit diagrams for rolling your own IR hardware... I just went with an Irman and Redeye to save the hassle). Some GUI setup tools would really not go amiss.

    - PAGES AND PAGES AND PAGES of settings, the defaults for which don't make much sense usually. Here's a suggestion, when in doubt do what TiVo does. The default ffwd/rewind behaviour is unusable, it doesn't remember where you left off watching a programme unless you tell it to (why not?). To name just two problems.

    - Weird menu system. The setup menus are split almost arbitrarily between mythfrontend and mythsetup, using the system from a remote is very strange (menu navigation and channel switching seems to collide). There is no warning about scheduling collisions so you always have to check the recording schedule. There's no at-a-glance "season pass" editor, so if you want to cancel a season pass you have to find the next instance of the show. Many many minor niggles like this.

    - Inexplicable encoding weirnesses everywhere. It either skips and stutters or records in awful quality (on a 2GHz hyperthreading Xeon with half a GB of memory, which the site claims should be able to record TWO streams in MPEG4 at once AND play one back at the same time). Or you spend ages messing about with the recording profiles to get it just right (would it really be so hard to add a 'PAL/NTSC/VGA/Custom' resolution option instead of having to guess that the encoder will only be happy with 740x578 or whatever the hell it is?). I got frustrated with this and got a Hauppage MPEG2 hardware encoder. After getting IVTV up and running on Linux 2.6 with some oddball patched version it then encoded great... except the A/V then began to drift. Back to another round of messing with the settings then recording another programme to test it then messing with them again. Yes I have messed with all the AV sync settings. Should this REALLY require user intervention?

    - NUV format with opaque filenames. WHY? Okay if you have it set up to use RTJPEG/NuppelVideo for realtime encoding then yes I can understand this but why use the container after transcoding when the data is in MPEG4/MP3? I know about mythtranscod
  • From the article.. (Score:3, Informative)

    by Scooter (8281) <owenNO@SPAMannicnova.force9.net> on Thursday September 16, 2004 @07:42PM (#10272667)
    "...The ability to make changes to KnoppMyth after it has already been installed is one quality that it severely lacks. ..."

    er.. did they not figure what this meant on VCs 1-6? :-

    Login:

    In fact it is *necessary* to login to a Knoppmyth install and type lines starting with "apt-get install...." a lot and make changes in an energetic fashion to get things to work! Like setting any IDE DVD drives and HDD's to use DMA before mplayer will actually play a DVD, If I remember correctly, there are also some libs missing - libcss? or something like that. I also added some "luxuries" like the telnet service, NFS client and ftp server to my protoype box...

    "..For example, MCE continues to record even if the program is not open .."

    er.. and did they not grasp the concept of MythTV's ability to split the backend (that does the recording, scheduling etc) from the *frontend* - ie the pretty bit you point the remote at. They can even be on seperate machines with several front ends talking to one backend (and probably vice versa but I've never tried this).

    Aprt from these strange glaring gaffs a fair old comparison. Strange they chose Myth over MCE in the end though. I love MythTV, but for most punters, it's just not even close to ready yet - it's not exactly hard to install, but to get it working with a high SAF (Spouse Acceptance Factor) takes some effort, and some trial and error with hardware purchases. MCE is ready to go.

  • by jriskin (132491) on Friday September 17, 2004 @06:13AM (#10275127) Homepage
    Unfortunately, to do a real review, you would have to 'live with' each solution for at least a week to get a good feel for it.

    There are a ton of solutions these days:
    SageTV - Windows
    SnapStream - Windows
    BeyondTV - Windows
    MythTV - Linux
    MCE - MCE...
    Tivo - Linux Dedicated Hardware
    ReplayTV - ? Dedicated Hardware
    EyeTV - OS X

    Now THAT would be a nice roundup. Start with a feature comparison chart, price, compare the look and feel, reliability, benefits, expandability, etc... Then really get in to how living with each system was and how good the support and updates are, since PVR software is changing so rapidly.

    Unfortunately, looking at some specs on a web page just doesn't give you a good feel for what you are getting with PVR's.

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