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Television Media Data Storage Hardware

Build Your Own DVR 267

prostoalex writes "If you have an old computer that had been laying around for a while and are ready to spend a bit on hardware to make into a Digital Video Recorder, this article from Make magazine contains a step-by-step guide on building one. The author spent $150 on TV card and $70 on BeyondTV PVR software." (And with a Linux-friendly capture card, MythTV would save the builder $70.)
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Build Your Own DVR

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  • by putko ( 753330 ) on Saturday April 30, 2005 @08:44PM (#12395116) Homepage Journal
    The author's description implies the guy could have saved money if he'd used free software.

    When I read this, I thought, why would someone who is smart enough to build a PVR waste money unnecessarily on software?

    From RTFA, it appears that because the software is bundled, he didn't pay the $70. It was "free as in beer".
    • An the author does has his act together. There are various common problems such as automation that he explains work-arounds to. Sounds like he actually used the stuff.
    • In my experience... (Score:5, Informative)

      by grolschie ( 610666 ) on Saturday April 30, 2005 @09:19PM (#12395333)
      There is currently no PVR software that allows capture to DVD. The ones that offer DVD burning, do it after the capture. Time consuming, not convenient. You still can't get close to the convenience of a box-top DVD recorder.

      Also, just don't buy a TV card (or AGP card with TV tuner) made by ATI. You'll have nightmares with drivers and ATI software like the rest of us ATI users do.
      • by fm6 ( 162816 ) on Saturday April 30, 2005 @09:41PM (#12395455) Homepage Journal
        Even if the software supported that feature, it would be a mistake to use it on most systems. DVD burning is something you have to do all at once, unless you're short of coasters. Running a lot of CPU intensive processes, such as recording and TV show and encoding it to DVD format, has a high liklihood of causing a fatal interruption. Maybe you could do it on a high-end system -- but a consumer DVD recorder [] is a lot cheaper.
      • Set top boxes (Score:3, Interesting)

        by way2trivial ( 601132 )
        Unless I'm mistaken, all set top boxes that can record as they go- can't fit nearly the same length of video on a DVD as a PC can that encodes after the fact, for the simple reason that they can't pick the VBR

        (this was at least the case for some first gen machine I looked at)

        I'd rather have 2 hours & 10 mins of DVD that took 2-4 to encode, than 60 minutes recorded in real time...
        • Re:Set top boxes (Score:3, Interesting)

          by bigbigbison ( 104532 )
          I'm not sure if you are tlaking about PVR's that have dvd burners or set-top dvd burners, but my set-top dvd machine can burn anywhere from 1 hour up to 10 hours on a disk (Although I've never tried more than the 4 hour setting since even at that setting it starts to look as bad as vhs).
  • More than $70... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jmcneill ( 256391 ) on Saturday April 30, 2005 @08:44PM (#12395117) Homepage
    The author spent $150 on TV card and $70 on BeyondTV PVR software." (And with a Linux-friendly capture card, MythTV would save the builder $70.)

    Lets not forget the license fee for Windows XP -- that's significantly more than $70, I'm sure.
    • But in reality, who worries about their Windows XP license fee?
    • Re:More than $70... (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 30, 2005 @09:25PM (#12395361)
      Had you read the article, you would have learned that he had an "extra" license for Win 2000, and that is what he used. He mentioned upgrading to XP, but said that he didn't.
      • Had you read the article, you would have learned that he had an "extra" license for Win 2000, and that is what he used. He mentioned upgrading to XP, but said that he didn't.

        The article summary suggests that this is a possibility for others who are looking to build a personal video recorder. Had you read the Slashdot summary of the article:

        If you have an old computer that had been laying around for a while and are ready to spend a bit on hardware to make into a Digital Video Recorder, this article from
    • "Lets not forget the license fee for Windows XP -- that's significantly more than $70, I'm sure."

      That's one of the reasons I keep my Win2k cd around. No calling home to ask for permission to run.

      For the record, Win2k makes for a great OS on a PVR machine. The one I built worked for months without a problem. (months as in up-time.) The only reason I shut it down was because I didn't have room for it when I moved.
    • If you'd actually read the article, he used a Win2K license that he says he had laying around. He's not even running XP, so your point is offtopic ;)
  • by Mantorp ( 142371 ) <mantorp 'funny A'> on Saturday April 30, 2005 @08:45PM (#12395122) Homepage Journal
    $150 on the capture card and didn't have to spend $70 on the software because it came with the card.

    Yeah I admit it, I rtfa.

    • Of course, it would be nice if the article wasn't misleading. In this case, "bundled" does not mean "free as in beer."

      Hauppauge's PVR-250 comes bundled with both BeyondTV and SageTV -- TRIAL VERSIONS! Both have 30 day trial periods.

      I have 3 of the PVR-250 cards and I chose SageTV for my Home Theater PC []

  • by holyshitholyshit ( 877523 ) on Saturday April 30, 2005 @08:45PM (#12395128)
    1. an old computer is going to be a big hulking mess compared to a DVR

    2. the DVR will use much less wattage

    3. the DVR doesn't cost much more anyway
    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 30, 2005 @08:58PM (#12395205)
      1. an old computer is going to be a big hulking mess compared to a DVR
      2. the DVR will use much less wattage
      3. the DVR doesn't cost much more anyway

      Amen, thank you.

      If I could get a DVR for the price of TV card + the software, and no more hassle, I'd buy one.

      In fact, it would solve the problem of getting digitised programs off a standalone DVR. However, as this would require leaving my computer all the time (wattage, noise), and more importantly, restrict what I can do with it (bad enough if you use Windows and want decent recording quality- means you can't run game X when your favorite program is on; I run Linux, and not being able to boot into that at will is a killer, straight off, for me).

      The 'old computer' is, as you say, still going to be bulky and noisy (and ugly), and quite honestly, if you want analog recording, you're going to need a pretty decent machine to capture at full resolution. The only machine I can dedicate to this (I use my laptop as a wireless X server for my main machine) is my old Pentium-233. *Way* too slow...

      So, buy a new PC. Cheap one? Still noisy, bulky, and power hungry; and no cheaper than a standalone box, if slightly more flexible.

      Shuttle-type case (nano-ATX where the *hell* are you?); getting expensive, and I'd have to start questioning the merit of not just getting a standalone DVR.

      For me, the latter are likely to come down in price to mass-market breakthrough price by the end of the year; the main problem is getting the video off them. But that in itself isn't enough to persuade me to spend more on the 'cheap' option of a new PC.

      On the other hand, maybe I just don't care enough about TV to consider the ultimate flexibility that a new nano-PC based solution would give to be worth the money. I'll wait for my cheap off-the-shelf box and use my VHS recorder in the meantime.
      • by Anonymous Coward
        (all prices in Canadian $$$'s)

        My DVR is on a dedicated IBM NetVista desktop box (P4-1.4Ghz, 256MB ram) I got refurbished for $200. It has a 180watt power supply which is whisper quiet and has more than enough to juice for the components I have inside. It's currently got a 200GB hard drive I picked up for about $100, an Asus E616 DVD rom drive for $40 (the quietest region-free DVD drive made I think) and a low end ATI radeon card with TV-out for about $50. For capture, I use the Plextor m402U, which cos
      • by The Vulture ( 248871 ) on Saturday April 30, 2005 @09:27PM (#12395372) Homepage
        Some people like the simplicity and cheapness of a commerically available DVR. Some people prefer to build their own. I say, to each their own. Building a DVR isn't for everybody, and it can be quite expensive.

        My reasons for building my own (using MythTV):
        1. I can put in multiple tuners. Two tuner units came out six months ago at best, if my memory serves me correctly. I've been using two tuners for over a year now, and I now have three tuners in my machine (a PVR-250 and a PVR-500). This is very convenient when there's three shows on at the same time that I want to watch. (A typical Tuesday night at the moment has Law and Order: SVU, The Shield and Masterminds all on at the same time, 10PM). The scheduler in MythTV can accomodate that fairly well with only one or two tuners, mind you.
        2. The user interface on a lot of the DVRs that come from the cable companies is awful. It's slow, full of ugly colors, and unstable
        3. I use my MythTV machine as my file server as well. So, I was going to have the PC on 24/7 anyway.
        4. MythTV plays back DVDs also, not many DVRs currently do that.
        5. I have complete control over the unit. I can skip commercials at will. I don't have to worry about my DVR expiring shows on me (except when I run out of disk space). My demographics aren't sent to some company. My DVR doesn't pop up ads on me.

        I picked MythTV because it met my needs. If a Windows program worked well for me, then I would have used that, just to make it simple.

        -- Joe
        • Forget about DVD players; do any DVRs have DVD burners? If you're enough of a TV fan to want a DVR in the first place, odds are there are at least a couple TV shows you enjoy enough to want to archive indefinitely or take to friends' houses. MythTV doesn't do DVD or DVD-ROM burning itself yet, but if you're willing to go outside the Myth interface there's other free software capable of doing the rest.
        • >Two tuner units came out six months ago at best, if my memory serves me correctly.

          Not true. My old hughes tivo has been doing two tuners for three years now. I paid next to nothing for it (well under $200) when I got DirecTV and am floored by what people are spending on DIY approaches. To each is own indeed, but when the DIY costs twice as much as a stand-alone its a geek hobby like case-moding or building the fastest and latest and greatest for idle cycles or the occasional game.

          >The user interfa
        • 2. The user interface on a lot of the DVRs that come from the cable companies is awful. It's slow, full of ugly colors, and unstable

          And if you live where I live (Charter), 50% of the guide display is taken up by ads. Luckily I have Dish, which still lacks that feature.
        • Out of curiousity... Which commercial DVR are you using as your comparison? I've had a DirecTV with Tivo unit for 3 1/2 years that is free from those problems (except DVD playback).
          • Since only some of the points need addressing, I'll address only those ones:

            2. A couple of different models, unfortunately, I don't know their model numbers. (These boxes are now over a year old, so it may not be a fair comparison). One was a box that I saw on Comcast digital cable (a Motorola one), and one was a Scientific Atlanta that I saw at a friend's house (on Rogers Digital Cable). The Comcast box was awful - slow channel changes (showing the pixellation until the MPEG-2 I-frame came in), slow bu
        • *clap clap clap*

          well said!

          It's not really a matter of saving money (especially with rebates and other offers making a TiVo STB dirt cheap)... Building your own DVR is about control and the freedom to innovate/customize features while not having to wait for some corporate identity overseeing which features you can and can't have...

          IMHO not having DRM wrapped around my recordings (unless you are running a MCE 2005) is worth the price/effort of admission alone. But that's just may be me, I roll that way.
      • by kfhickel ( 449052 ) on Saturday April 30, 2005 @09:35PM (#12395418)
        wrong, wrong, wrong.

        The power of a PC based DVR (I use BeyondTV myself even though I have a linux server in the house too), is not that you put one next to every TV. That would be "stupid". Instead, you put one in the basement where you don't care if it's noisy, then you put a $90 MediaMVP box from Hauppage on each TV, and wire it to a switch.

        Compare that to putting a TIVO on 4 TV's, even if you get the box for free, it's $1200 for the lifetime guide access (which is free with BeyondTV), and then more money if you want the home networking option so that you can move programs from one TIVO to another.

        Now, my setup cost more than $1200 (but not that much more), but then my BeyondTV machine is also my X-10 house controller machine, is a 3.2ghz p4 hyperthreaded with 1gb of 800mhz dual channel ram, a 100gb 7200rpm disk for the OS and 4 seagate ata133 7200rpm 300gb drives in a stripe set for the data volume. It's also my backup server. And I can watch any program from any TV in the house.

        I've got right aroun $1500 in the machine, including the OS and software licenses and 4 MediaMVP boxes for a total cost (not including network switches, etc) of $1820 (I got a deal on the MVPs) for 4 TVs, and I could have another TV for free if I put the server next to a TV.

        4 TIVOs would cost more like $2000 (200/box plus 300 guide fee) and would have a lot fewer features and much less storage, and some amount more for the networking option.

      • But a standalone DVR is so limited in functionality, at least for now. In a few more generations, I suppose they will catch up with what a livingroom PC can do today - not just VCR functionality, but play (networked) video games, DVDs, huge capacity music jukebox, hold all your photos for a slide show, burn shows (or anything else) to DVD... plus whatever WebTV does.

        I'm not saying a livingroom PC is right for everybody, but it probably makes sense for a lot of slashdot readers.

        Mine is an 850 mhz compu

      • nano-ATX where the *hell* are you?

        Mini-ITX: 6.75" inches square []

        Thinking about getting one of these as a MythTV head...

      • "If I could get a DVR for the price of TV card + the software, and no more hassle, I'd buy one."

        In the UK you can pick up a PC with sufficient specification for about 220 pounds, and about 50 pounds for a single Freeview card, about 270 total. You can pick up a hard disk Freeview standalone recorder for as little as 179. If you want two Freeview connections than you are talking 320 (PC) versus around 250 (standalone). Either way unless you have spare PC parts of want something with more than the function

    • by segmond ( 34052 ) on Saturday April 30, 2005 @09:33PM (#12395404)
      who has a 1.8ghz lying around? My main PC workstations are 450mhz.
    • by kent_eh ( 543303 ) on Saturday April 30, 2005 @10:06PM (#12395579)

      DVRs (like Tivo, Replay, etc)may be commonly available where you live, but the aren't everywhere.

      Here in Canada, the options for off-the-shelf DVR are:

      1) whatever your cable company/satellite proivider will provide.

      2) a set-top DVD recorder

      3) buy a used Tivo/Replay box on E-bay and hack it

      4) there is no 4

    • My DVR (Comcast-supplied Motorola 6208) has the very, very annoying problem of excessive fan noise. Since I don't own it, I can't rip it apart to silence the loud hissing when it gets a little warm (which it does at the drop of a hat while watching tv). Well, I could, but if I screw up, I don't want to pay for the privilege of owning a slow, noisy set-top box. I also can't expand the disk space with the version I have, by attaching firewire or usb drives.

      That said, everything else you mentioned is spot
    • you forgot #4

      the one that says you can record anything you want anytime you want and you don't have to watch the dvr's ads in addition to the commercials that are shown on tv.

      and #5 which says you can record it in any format you want and keep it as long as you want. and share it with others.

      also #6 which mentions that you won't be monitored 24/7 on your watching habits. nor will you be required to "phone home" to "update" the electronic program guide and coughhackwheeze upload your personal information c
  • Free pvr software (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Dzimas ( 547818 ) on Saturday April 30, 2005 @08:46PM (#12395132)
    Don't forget that one can get excellent free PVR software, too. In fact, I'm surprised that Make Mazazine didn't go this route -- far more the DIY style. I run GB-PVR (, which can handle DivX, audio, etc. and has plugins for weather, cartoons, and is skinnable. It enables you to select free tv listing from zap2it which cover Canada and the USA, and also supports various XML listing feeds for elsewhere on the planet.

    I also recommend checking out the Hauppage ( PVR-150 through PVR-350 series, as well as their MediaMVP box, which allows streaming your tv across ethernet to your television. I suspect you could create a very useable system with free software for well under $100. Just be warned that you'll chew through about 2GB per hour of HD space. The old 30GB drive that's serving as my PVR storage doesn't really cut it in the modern world!

  • Reliably?

    Myth has a long way to go yet.
    And some really awkward assumptions for defaults.
    "No, you should not see the cursor, that would be too easy to use"

    Free does not necessarily mean "best"
  • And for $99... (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    You can buy a TiVo that works out of the box...
    • Re:And for $99... (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Waffle Iron ( 339739 )
      You can get dirt cheap inkjet printers and razor handles too.
  • EFF shameless plug (Score:5, Informative)

    by NotoriousQ ( 457789 ) on Saturday April 30, 2005 @08:52PM (#12395162) Homepage
    In honor of Broadcast flag becoming law on July 1st, EFF hosts a Broadcast flag awareness and PVR building page [] with many resources on how to build you own. A good starting place to see many solutions and find many links
  • You could build it yourself, but even after many hours of tinkering you're still going to have a product which is:

    -unable to record more than one digital channel at once, and you'll still need a cable/satellite receiver to record digital at all
    -terrible form factor
    -clunky user interface
    -limited epg (electronic program guide)

    I'm usually all for tinkering and rolling your own, but in this case I would suggest just getting a Tivo, or better yet a DirectTivo or a DVR through your cable company (

    • MythTV has stuff like weather, news headlines, etc.
      It was a pain in the ass to set up for me though. Driver support for some cards is dismally bad.

      • by The Vulture ( 248871 ) on Saturday April 30, 2005 @09:16PM (#12395304) Homepage
        Yes, MythTV can be a bit of a pain to setup, and yes, driver support for some cards is bad.

        I know that I'm going to sound like a total ass for saying this, but... You need to do some research.

        If you read the mythtv-users mailing list, you'll find that the PVR-250 seems to be the best supported card (unfortunately, unless you have one of the newer ones). PVR-150 support is iffy, but I have a PVR-500 and a PVR-250 (one of the first generation ones) working fine, with a driver that is listed as "testing" in ATrpms.

        I have absolutely no problems setting up MythTV, in fact, it's basically copy/paste. Why?
        1. I use supported hardware
        2. I use ATrpms for the RPMS (on Fedora Core 3)
        3. I follow Jarod Wilson's MythTV HOWTO at [], which the community contributes to in order to keep it up to date
        4. I read the mythtv-users mailing list (and the -dev list, and ivtv and atrpms-devel as well, but most users don't need to do that).

        -- Joe
        • Well, when I set it up it was "use the hardware I had" as opposed to getting the 250 (which I understand is kind of hard to find now because so many people want them)
          I was using the pcHDTV(TM) HD-3000 (the one the eff reccomended which avoided the broadcast flag).
          Didn't work 100% of the time and no errors popped when it didn't.

          To be fair, while building it, I came across a whole bunch of other problems (bad ram, a hard drive that was funky, video card was a pos), but it really bugged me that I had spent 20
    • Meanwhile with a standalone TiVo and a separate receiver, you get:
      -separate box with poor channel control
      -multiple remote controls
      -same crappy epg, as now the boxes are not connected
      -one channel at once period
      -"updates" that remove features you want
      -additional monthly subscription

      With a PVR supplied by your TV company, you get:
      -recording of only those shows they want you to record. Just wait for broadcast flag.
      -"updates" that remove features you want
      -potentially poor choice of options (good luck att
      • -recording of only those shows they want you to record. Just wait for broadcast flag.

        No, all DVR's I'm aware of currently allow you to record whatever you want to record. Even with the broadcast flag, with your cable-company provided DVR, you'll still be able to record what you want, you just won't be able to re-distribute it (which you can't currently do anyway with a cable-company provided DVR's, because the streams are re-encrypted before being stored to disk).

        • you'll still be able to record what you want, you just won't be able to re-distribute it

          How can you be so sure of this. For now all DVR's are letting you record what you want, but sooner or later someone (most likely NFL) have a reason to not want recording of their show to be made (perhaps they want to sell the broadcast of the superbowl on DVD). Then they find themselves in position to be able to stop all recordings, and poof...bye bye to your DVD. Some will complain, but since it is one show, and not t
    • #1 Not everyone can get Tivo, let alone DirectTivo
      #2 A cable company's PVR/DVR is limited in what in can do, and what you can do with it, such as weather, emulators, mp3s or whatever format you use, RSS feeds, harddrive space, networking ....
    • I've actually found the MythTV program guide (with listings by Zap2It) to be *far* superior to the guide on a Scientific Atlanta 8000 (Time Warner uses a lot of these), and Myth is a WHOLE lot more configurable/controllable.
  • by loraksus ( 171574 ) on Saturday April 30, 2005 @08:54PM (#12395183) Homepage []
    Assuming you have the right hardware, etc.
    If not, prepare to spend a couple hours finding drivers / recompiling / all that fun stuff.

    Maybe it is just me, but I don't feel like installing 3 distros and spending hours trying to get some hardware to work, sometimes "just fucking works" is nice.
  • $150 too much (Score:3, Interesting)

    by biryokumaru ( 822262 ) * <> on Saturday April 30, 2005 @08:56PM (#12395190)
    $150 is way, way, way too much. I got a fully functional TV tuner card that I use with mplayer as a DVR and it only cost me $6 (I got a good deal). But puts capture cards around $20.
  • There are around 4 shows a week our household likes to watch. If we miss one, I get it off of bittorrent. I'm sure they are fun and convenient, but just not worth it for the limited use. You know, if I really gave it enough thought, we would just do away with cable at $20/month and get our shows from the the 'net.

  • by Bryce ( 1842 ) on Saturday April 30, 2005 @09:04PM (#12395225) Homepage
    Since this uses the Hauppauge WinTV-PVR, I wonder if GOPchop [] can be used to delete out the commercials? GOPchop 1.1.6 just came out, adding a bunch of patches, and it sounds like the 1.2.0 release is around the corner. Also planned is adding some commandline operation mode, so in theory if you had a way to detect commercial breaks, maybe it could be set up to auto-skip? That'd be a neat trick.
  • by AgNO3 ( 878843 ) on Saturday April 30, 2005 @09:09PM (#12395263) Homepage
    Call current provider and say, "I'm thinking of switching to another provider because they will give me a free dvr. If you can match that I will stay with you." That's how we got our Dish netowork DVR. Which does 2 tvs. Recently talked to comcast about switching to them but said we want dvrs for 4 rooms. They said yes. (we want on demand feature from comcast) So will probably switch to Comcast when our dish contract is up in a month. Only reservation is that we hear comcast dvr sucks. Dish's is pretty nice.
    • Having just started seeing a girl who has the Comcast DVR, I can tell you that program quality is just fine and the interface is about as simple as one can wish for. Also, the box itself is fairly attractive.

      And yes, I did kind of post this just to be able to say on Slashdot that I've been seeing a girl.
  • Editing fun (Score:2, Interesting)

    I use a 3rd party capture card for DVR just so I can make funny edits to clips from the shows that my friends watch. Can't do that with Tivo.
  • ReplayTV (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Mochatsubo ( 201289 ) on Saturday April 30, 2005 @09:32PM (#12395402)
    Before building your own PC-DVR, you should take a long look at Tivo or ReplayTV.

    For example. A 40GB ReplayTV unit is $99 + $299 activation. From there you can upgrade hard drive to a huge capacity for the cost of a bare drive. It takes 5 minutes to set up. The interface is serviceable. The GUI is adequate. Video quality is good. There are programs to get files from the Replay unit to your PC.

    It just works. And for god sakes it is just TV. You might save some money but you gotta ask yourself if it is really worth the time and energy.

    • Re:ReplayTV (Score:3, Insightful)

      by cheekyboy ( 598084 )
      If everyone just buys things and never makes things, then we will become a dumb society with idiots everywhere depending on corporates with our skills being zero.

      Go tell your grandma to not spend 4hrs making that sweater or scalf, its only $8.99 at walmart, why waste 4hrs.

      Yes if your a rich prick with $180,000 in the bank, go buy all the shit you want. But many many people are not rich and have tonnes of hours on their hands and tonnes of skills too but perhaps no job for many reasons, perhaps they are di
  • Since I (finally!) got a broadband connection, I've been using BitTorrent to grab stuff I've missed. Despite the *AA's efforts, a few sites still provide torrents for TV shows. And I figure I'm not violating copyright if I download a show, watch it, and then trash it. The shows I really like, I'll buy the DVD later...
  • My MythTV experience (Score:3, Interesting)

    by DrJohnnie ( 93092 ) on Saturday April 30, 2005 @10:19PM (#12395643)
    I put together a mythtv system from an old computer; it was a way for me to learn more about linux.

    But, then after the motherboard went bad (bad caps.) I bought a new motherboard, processor, and memory ($159.) It wasn't "pretty" enough (girl friend didn't like the case next to the TV.) So I bought a silver stone case and power supply ($190.)

    Can't forget the two tuners; pvr-250 ($120) pvr-150 ($60.)

    Total $529...

    My ReplayTV, refurbished 5040, $350/with lifetime service.

    I paid $179 more for a homemade pvr and some linux experience. Not to mention a fun and frustrating hobby.

    I think it was worth it, but my girl friend prefers the replay.
    • Yes, you spent a lot of money on your home-brew box, but you certainly didn't need to.

      You can get a (black) desktop ATX cases very cheap (eg $40). You didn't really need a more-expensive PVR-250, you could have gone for 2 PVR-150s just as easily.

      In addition to the price though, you aren't screwed when ReplayTV goes out of business. You can edit and re-encode anything you capture. You can rip DVDs, CDs, etc. You can record any video to standard DVDs, SVCDs, etc. You can upgrade it to HDTV easily and w
  • My DIY PVR (Score:4, Interesting)

    by xchino ( 591175 ) on Saturday April 30, 2005 @11:29PM (#12395998)
    For most people I would recommend just buying a tivo or something off the shelf like that, but if you're a true geek you're going to want a mythtv system. I spent about ~$1,000 total on mine, but it's the nicest PVR me or my friends have ever come across. It's actually more of a media center than just a PVR. Here's the basic setup..

    First I didnt want some clunky beige case sitting beside my TV looking akward, so I opted for a home theater PC case, specifically this one [].

    I've got two Hauppauge PVR-500's [], which are dual tuner cards, so I have a total of 4 tuners (this way I can record 4 different shows at once if they happen to be broadcast simultaneosly. This comes in handy durin g prime time when you would otherwise be forced to pick between different shows.

    The rest of the hardware is nothing special, a soyo kt400 mb, 512M ram, athlon 2100+, and a geForce fx 5200. Not a top of the line system by any means, but not bad at all. Probably overkill for doing the PVR stuff, but I do alot more with it than just that.

    The software is where it really gets interesting. I use gentoo on most of my machines, and this one was no different, mythtv as well as several plugins are already in portage and installed hassle free. MythTV acts as my front end to TV, weather, DVD's/Movies, Games, etc. I scripted a little GTK frontend to all my emulators and roms, so my PVR is also a NES, SNES, SMS, N64, PSX, etc. (now you see why I needed that GeForce :P) It server as my fileserver and mp3 jukebox, and can stream all of it's data (video,tv,music) to any other PC in my house. I can browse tv listings and schedule show recordings through a web interface from anywhere.

    So all in all I spent about 4 times more than a Tivo and got about 20 times more out of it. Not a bad deal I'd say...
  • While a PVR has been just out of reach for me in the past couple months, I have a great desire in building one. I was assuming that when I clicked on this thread I would see all kinds of people telling all the different creative solutions they had to making PVRs and the ways to do it. Instead there is a big discussion on whether a PVR or a TIVO or cable provider solution is better. I thought that most of the Slashdot users were all about bringing down "the man". So most people sided with TIVO? I've seen ple
  • I'm a registered (paid) BeyondTv user. I still run version 3.4 (Build 1334) as it is the latest version to support the writing to divx encoded avis internally. Its buggy. Every 2 weeks the .NET routines die, and it won't update the guide. This means that shows don't get recorded.

    Sure I could update to the 3.5x to solve this problem, but Snapstream removed divx support internally in that and all versions to date. That leaves users to throw a bunch of batch files together, hunt down 3rd party apps to do
    • Snapstream and SageTV and Meedio (major 3rd party commercial PVR software vendors) all have trial periods and it behooves you to try before you buy.

      Both to see which software "feels" right to you and to make sure it performs well on your hardware.

      Not sure what to tell you re: your issue. I assume you have a software encoding card if you're recording right to divx (unless you have a plextor convertx). I usually record in MPEG2 even if i'm not going to move something over to DVD, but then again I have all
  • I built a MythTV box using an Asus Pundit. ew.htm []
    The Pundit is a small form factor all in one that looks a lot like any other home theatre component when turned on its side and is quiet too. While it can be a nuisance to set up MythTV, once it is working, it will continue to work well. You just have to make sure all your hardware is linux compatible and works together well.

    There are a lot of nice things you can do with it. Watching any movies or music is
    • I have a PC that I use as a server for the house and it also has MythTV installed on it.

      I have wanted to get a small PC for the kitchen since I have a TV there and watch quite a bit of TV during dinner.

      I'll have to look at the Pundit. I was interested in the VIA EPIA since Fry's Electronics sell the mobo, but they don't sell a case for them ARGH! The model I was looking for was quiet since it is fanless, but still has MPEG2 decoder for playback.

      Perhaps I'll have to check another Fry's in town...
  • Here at work, we have an bt878 card in one of the windows machines in the NOC to watch TV.

    I'd love to be able to run some type of PVR software on here. I tried BeyondTV however after registering for a trial account it never lets me log in so I can never download the programming for my area.

    As far as MythTV. It looks great...too bad my TV tuner is on a windows box.

  • by DaedalusLogic ( 449896 ) on Sunday May 01, 2005 @03:34AM (#12396848)
    It costs me $71.40 to rent the DVR on top of my usual cable subscription... (yes, which subsidizes the DVR cost...) but at $71.40 a year, HDTV capability and no up front or program listing costs... It's worth the money. Now if I wanted an extra DVR for just grabbing regular television you bet I'd tinker with a homebuilt solution. It's a great learning exercise, but not for everyone.
  • GBPVR!!! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by jsrockford ( 161750 )
    I'm surprised there is not more talk about GBPVR ( I use it on my everyday workstation with a Hauppauge PVR-250 in conjunction with a networked Hauppauge MediaMVP connected to my TV. From my couch I can pull up the GBPVR server on the MediaMVP, select what to record or watch, check the weather, read Slashdot headlines, listen to Net radio stations, and more. Free (as in beer) software with great support and lots of additional development community plug-ins. When I was looking at building
  • About 3 or 4 years ago. A great investment. It just worked out of the box and apart from upgrading the disks to 250Gb soon after I got it I haven't had to touch it. Much more useful than a video recorder.

    It's single best feature though which none of the others seem to have is the auto recording of stuff it thinks I might like. It searches through all the crap on all the channels and does a fairly good job of picking out the gems.

    The next best feature, again of which the others only seem to have a limited
  • a freeware dvr system for windows that had a name very similar to mythtv...

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