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'[EE] Homebrew PVR (was Beta vs VHS (was language..'
2008\04\04@002626 by William \Chops\ Westfield

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On Apr 3, 2008, at 12:53 PM, Ray Newman wrote:
> Why don't you just use an old computer and a few tuners to it
> and get better quality and very little wear & tear.
> sagetv.com is what I use with 4 analog tuners and two HD tuners.

Hmm.  I suppose the main reason is that I wasn't aware that the DIY  
PVRs supported more than one tuner; I thought they were pretty  
strapped out just doing compression/etc for a single video stream.  
(I see that this got better when tuner cards started including their  
own video compression logic.)

The other reason is that the "old computers" I have tend to be rather  
large, noisy, and ugly by living room standards (especially in their  
"standby" mode (which is "on", right?), compared to an idle VCR.)  
And "new" computers tend to be rather expensive, even compared to  
multiple VCRs.  Especially after you add several hundred megabytes of  
disk. The VCRs have "infinite" storage; just buy (and pile up) more  
tapes...

I do have a 2.x GHz Celeron Dell 2400 that's idled at the moment;  
perhaps I should give things another look...

(MythTV seems to only support a rather small number of video cards,  
right?  Grr.)

(Are there any tuner cards that have multiple tuners and a single RF  
(cable) input?  My coax system is ... strained, and keeps driving  
Comcast crazy...)

BillW



2008\04\04@080447 by Byron Jeff

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On Fri, Apr 04, 2008 at 12:25:58AM -0400, William Chops Westfield wrote:
>
> On Apr 3, 2008, at 12:53 PM, Ray Newman wrote:
> > Why don't you just use an old computer and a few tuners to it
> > and get better quality and very little wear & tear.
> > sagetv.com is what I use with 4 analog tuners and two HD tuners.
>
> Hmm.  I suppose the main reason is that I wasn't aware that the DIY
> PVRs supported more than one tuner;

In fact you can buy cards with more than one tuner in them. I have a PVR
500 card which has dual tuners. My game plan is to build a MythTV box with
3 tuners initially.

> I thought they were pretty
> strapped out just doing compression/etc for a single video stream.
> (I see that this got better when tuner cards started including their
> own video compression logic.)

Exactly. The cards act as coprocessors for the video compression. So the PC
is used for setup and storage, not actual compression.

> The other reason is that the "old computers" I have tend to be rather
> large, noisy, and ugly by living room standards (especially in their
> "standby" mode (which is "on", right?), compared to an idle VCR.)

Agreed. However with the magic of networks the recording and storage
machine doesn't have to be anywhere near the TV. You set that machine up as
a back end in your server room, and use the network to deliver the content
to the front ends at the TV. There are several options.

> And "new" computers tend to be rather expensive, even compared to
> multiple VCRs.

I'm currently testing the Hauppauge Media MVP for a front end. You can find
it here:

http://www.hauppauge.com/pages/products/data_mediamvp.html

It downloads its OS over the network and gets to work. The box is smaller
than the typical settop box and it has no disks or fans so it's completely
silent. Finally you can find units on Ebay in the $50 ballpark each. In
fact after reading the start of this thread I went on Ebay last night and
purchased 2 brand new units for $55 USD each including shipping. That gives
me three units to spread around the house.

Finally I remember saving a blurb about a really cheap PC. Here's the
article:

http://www.popsci.com/diy/article/2007-06/72-pc#77017053692583357

Now while you probably cannot locate these exact components, it certainly
gives you the idea that a cheap frontend can be created. One tool I was
using for a video front end at one point in time was a IoMega Buz. You can
pick up cards like those for less than $20 on Ebay.

But the Media MVP is a complete solution for the settop, so that's why I
went with it.

>  Especially after you add several hundred megabytes of
> disk.

I presume you mean several hundred gigabytes. That could be an issue
depending on how you use your media. I'm a timeshifter. So the purpose of
my DVR (a comcast one right this second) is to record at one time to view
at another (oh and to skip commercials!). So once a show has been seen,
generally it gets deleted.

The comcast DVR only has 120GB disk. I have a 300 GB disk sitting on a
shelf (purchased at a Fry's after thanksgiving sale for $49) waiting to be
installed. With somewhat judicious deletions and saving anything critical,
I figure that I can easily manage a hole season's worth of stuff in 300 GB.
If not, then the next time a decent disk is on sale, I'll pick it up and
add it to the mix.

My basic numbers are that the Comcast DVR cost me $15/month and doesn't do
anything close to serving my true needs. To even get close to what I'm
trying to setup would cost me $45/month and that would required duplicated
instead of shared content.

So far in equipment I'm about $400 in. For that price I'll have 300 GB of
disk, 3 tuners, and 3 front ends. With a 9 month payback at the
equivalent cost, I think I can live with that. Especially when I'm getting
all the functionality that I want, specifically recording 3 shows while
watching a 4th (a rare occurance but possible), being able to view recorded
content all over the house instead of a single spot, enough disk space that
I don't have to scramble to manage the server, and no monthly
payments. The PC is an old Dell 2.8 Ghz donor I got from a friend of mine.

> The VCRs have "infinite" storage; just buy (and pile up) more
> tapes...

True. But a disk gives you hundreds of tapes worth of virtual storage in
the same physical space as a single tape. Also you have instant access to
all that stored material, so there's no need to find a tape and load it.
Also disk storage is technically infintely expandable if you utilize
network attached storage. Finally you can employ a DVD writer for
additional offline storage if you really need it.

> I do have a 2.x GHz Celeron Dell 2400 that's idled at the moment;
> perhaps I should give things another look...
>
> (MythTV seems to only support a rather small number of video cards,
> right?  Grr.)

I guess so. There are certainly Windows based options if you wish to pursue
them. As with all things Linux based, I simply do the research as to what
works with the tools and utilize them. That's how I settled on the PVR
150/500 tuners and the Media MVP front ends. A wiki describing how to set
up Mythbuntu with the Media MVP can be found here:

https://help.ubuntu.com/community/MythTV/MediaMVP_Frontend

I'm really just waiting until next month when I can get an uninterrupted
week or so to get everything set up.

>
> (Are there any tuner cards that have multiple tuners and a single RF
> (cable) input?  My coax system is ... strained, and keeps driving
> Comcast crazy...)

Not sure. The PVR 500 has two inputs. Comcast installed a wideband power
repeater at my house years ago. The downstream passive split to the
bedrooms work fine. I think I still have 4 or 5 open jack off the power
repeater to connect to. My plan is to run a single cable to a triple
passive splitter and see how well it works first.

Good luck. Hope that it works out for both of us.

BAJ

2008\04\04@090439 by Alan B. Pearce

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>> The VCRs have "infinite" storage; just buy (and pile up) more
>> tapes...
>
>True. But a disk gives you hundreds of tapes worth of virtual storage in
>the same physical space as a single tape. Also you have instant access to
>all that stored material, so there's no need to find a tape and load it.
>Also disk storage is technically infintely expandable if you utilize
>network attached storage. Finally you can employ a DVD writer for
>additional offline storage if you really need it.

The other advantage of a PVR over tape, that you didn't hit on, is that once
you have watched a program, you can recover that recording space, and the
new recording gets listed in time sequence with previous ones. You cannot
really do that with a tape unless it was the last item on the tape, and you
don't mind having tapes with programs out of date sequence, which gets messy
trying to keep tabs on what you need to watch next.

Bring on the PVR ... ;))

2008\04\04@093005 by sergio masci

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On Fri, 4 Apr 2008, Byron Jeff wrote:

> I'm currently testing the Hauppauge Media MVP for a front end. You can find
> it here:
>
> http://www.hauppauge.com/pages/products/data_mediamvp.html

I was leant one of these things to try for myself. I didn't get very far.
The remote control for the MVP interferes badly with my TV. It actually
puts my TV into a diagnostic mode (info on the screen which you cannot get
to normally) and the only way out is to power cycle it. I kid you not.

FYI the TV in question is a Philips.

Hope you have better luck.

Regards
Sergio

2008\04\04@100925 by Ray Newman

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http://www.sagetv.com
uses Hauppauge Media MVP for TV/monitor connections using composite or S-video connections.
They just load in their own software/interface.

They also have their own HD media extender
http://www.sagetv.com/hd_extender.html
for your HD monitors

What is missing about ALL of these PVR solutions is HDMI/Component inputs from STB from your cable company.
There is no HDMI/component card for your PC.

I am waiting on CableCARD for my pc that is supported by my cable company, but who knows when that is available.

Ray



On Fri, 4 Apr 2008 16:42:08 +0100 (BST), sergio masci wrote:
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2008\04\04@105918 by Alex Harford

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On Thu, Apr 3, 2008 at 9:25 PM, William Chops Westfield <spam_OUTwestfwTakeThisOuTspammac.com> wrote:
>
>  Hmm.  I suppose the main reason is that I wasn't aware that the DIY
>  PVRs supported more than one tuner; I thought they were pretty
>  strapped out just doing compression/etc for a single video stream.
>  (I see that this got better when tuner cards started including their
>  own video compression logic.)

Yup, they can support multiple tuners.  MythTV even supports multiple
tuners in multiple machines on the network!  So in theory you're only
limited by the size of your wallet. :)

>
>  The other reason is that the "old computers" I have tend to be rather
>  large, noisy, and ugly by living room standards (especially in their
>  "standby" mode (which is "on", right?), compared to an idle VCR.)
>  And "new" computers tend to be rather expensive, even compared to
>  multiple VCRs.  Especially after you add several hundred megabytes of
>  disk. The VCRs have "infinite" storage; just buy (and pile up) more
>  tapes...

I agree with the cost, but the usefulness and time savings of a PVR
tip the scales for me.  And the commercial skipping is fantastic.  If
I do watch a show while it is still broadcasting, I let it go for
about 20 minutes (in a 1hr show) before watching.  That is enough time
for it to skip the commercials, and I can watch it on 1.1x speed.
Myth does pitch shifting so you can watch TV at 1.1x but pitch shifted
back to normal so they don't sound like chipmunks. :D

>  I do have a 2.x GHz Celeron Dell 2400 that's idled at the moment;
>  perhaps I should give things another look...

That would be perfect for giving Myth a try.  The PVR-150/500 cards
can be found for relatively cheap nowadays.

>  (MythTV seems to only support a rather small number of video cards,
>  right?  Grr.)

MythTV supports what Linux does.  NVidia 5200/6200 with svideo or DVI
out seem to be the standard.

Alex

2008\04\04@110714 by Alex Harford

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On Fri, Apr 4, 2008 at 7:08 AM, Ray Newman <.....listKILLspamspam@spam@microdesigns.biz> wrote:
>
>  What is missing about ALL of these PVR solutions is HDMI/Component inputs from STB from your cable company.
>  There is no HDMI/component card for your PC.

Rumor has it that Hauppauge is releasing a component capture card,
real soon now.  :D

Alex

2008\04\04@113503 by Carl Denk

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Check out the ATI cards, for NTSC I have used the original Radeon All in
Wonder, and the 9600 pro. Recently got the HD650 with both analog and HD
tuners, and the HD2400 HD video card that outputs most any signals
including DVI, component, and S-video. This setup works as a PVR
including a remote. Haven't hooked it up to HDTV yet, but on the
monitor, and NTSC through my home network looks OK. Will hook up to my
HDTV's in near future and report quality picture.

I'll start a new thread on how do I distribute the HDTV around the house?

Alex Harford wrote:
{Quote hidden}

2008\04\04@113656 by Ray Newman

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When I first did my 4 tuner PVR I put it in an old amdxp 2800+
computer and it worked fine.
(been building DIY computers for friends & family for over a decade)
BUT
it was noisy, so I put it in the garage, using it just as a server.
I controlled the window's part of it with remote destop:
http://www.remote-desktop-control.com/
No keyboard, monitor or mouse.
Really cheap!!

But lately I have been buying motherboards & video cards that have no fans and
power supplies with low noise 120mm fans.
Same with CPU fans
Also I have found 65watt CPUs
add to that very low noise/heat hard drives
All of this from newegg

I just did not want to go water cooled. Too expensive.
Now you can put your ear right next to the computer and can hardly hear any noise at all.

All this well under $500 from newegg. (for a low noise computer only)

Ray

On Thu, 3 Apr 2008 21:25:58 -0700, Chops\ wrote:
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2008\04\04@120910 by Chris Smolinski

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Any suggestions on a MythTV setup? I've tried both Knopp and
Mythbuntu, and couldn't get either to properly install. They'd always
have issues like the backend not starting up automatically, or
networking not properly configured. I'm comfortable with linux, but
by no means an expert.

--

---
Chris Smolinski
Black Cat Systems
http://www.blackcatsystems.com

2008\04\04@200212 by Jake Anderson

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Chris Smolinski wrote:
> Any suggestions on a MythTV setup? I've tried both Knopp and
> Mythbuntu, and couldn't get either to properly install. They'd always
> have issues like the backend not starting up automatically, or
> networking not properly configured. I'm comfortable with linux, but
> by no means an expert.
>
>  
I use mythbuntu without issue drop me an email if you need help with it.
I'm running 8.04 beta currently as my myth box.
I have a core2 duo 2ghz in there that's basically silent (you cant hear
the box with 3 drives over the aquarium bubbler) heck I had to plug the
power light in just so I knew if the thing was on without looking at the
fan (which takes 30 seconds to get warm enough to turn on)
Its also running 3x virtual machines for various tasks ;->

2008\04\04@200333 by Jake Anderson

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Alex Harford wrote:
> On Thu, Apr 3, 2008 at 9:25 PM, William Chops Westfield <.....westfwKILLspamspam.....mac.com> wrote:
>  
>>  Hmm.  I suppose the main reason is that I wasn't aware that the DIY
>>  PVRs supported more than one tuner; I thought they were pretty
>>  strapped out just doing compression/etc for a single video stream.
>>  (I see that this got better when tuner cards started including their
>>  own video compression logic.)
>>    
>
> Yup, they can support multiple tuners.  MythTV even supports multiple
> tuners in multiple machines on the network!  So in theory you're only
> limited by the size of your wallet. :)
>  
The big thing is digital TV, if you are recieving digital then the tuner
just spits grabs the 2-12mbytes of data a second out of the air and myth
sticks it on disk. Mythbackend on my 2ghz core2 server uses about 6% of
one CPU when its recording 3 shows. Watching a HD show uses about 60%,
commercial flagging uses around 70%, its getting a little busy when its
commercial flagging 2 shows and we are watching a 3rd but other than the
hard drive light being "on" the only way to tell by is running top.

{Quote hidden}

We have our commercial flagging running while its recording so we don't
need to manually time skip ;->
>  
>>  I do have a 2.x GHz Celeron Dell 2400 that's idled at the moment;
>>  perhaps I should give things another look...
>>    
>
> That would be perfect for giving Myth a try.  The PVR-150/500 cards
> can be found for relatively cheap nowadays.
>  
That should be fine for standard definition but its borderline for HD i
think.
{Quote hidden}

Intel onboard graphics work well and the intel driver is open source so
it comes with most distro's out of the box.
There are a few motherboards out there with intel onboard video and HDMI
outputs which make life easy.

2008\04\04@221452 by William \Chops\ Westfield

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On Apr 4, 2008, at 5:03 PM, Jake Anderson wrote:
>>>  (MythTV seems to only support a rather small number of video cards,
>>>  right?  Grr.)
>>>
>> MythTV supports what Linux does.  NVidia 5200/6200 with svideo or DVI
>> out seem to be the standard.

Sorry, I meant "tuner cards."

BillW

2008\04\04@221624 by Ray Newman

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I found that dedicating a computer for Sagetv/MythTV program, including tuners
is the best way to go.
No virus programs or anything extra in the background.
no firewall
Let my home's router firewall do it's job
I use a motherboard with onboard video but never hook up KVM unless I need to do
some servicing I can't do with remote desktop

Found out a long time ago that PLAYING/WATCHING a program bogs down the CPU
(I wanted to use an old computer that is slow)

HD was easy from hdhomerun
straight writing from lan port to hard drive.
And all my analog TV tuners had hardware encoders built in.
So I could record 4 analog channels and two HD, at the same time, with no problems.
Playing recordings was a different matter.

I did change my lan from 10/100 to gigabit

Video cards are hit and miss when you are looking at cpu usage.
Exact same chipset from two different suppliers will have different cpu usage.
Same with PCIe and AGP
sometime AGP and the right chipset will work better than PCIe
And higher price is not always better.

I went through a lot of tuners, motherboards, video cards, power supplies & hard drives to get what I want that fits my needs.

Ray


On Sat, 05 Apr 2008 11:03:10 +1100, Jake Anderson wrote:
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