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Thread: Homebrew PVR (was Beta vs VHS (was language...))
face BY : Byron Jeff email (remove spam text)

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:


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


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:


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.

<20080404080514.GA7492@clayton.edu> 7bit

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