Once in a while, we get so excited about writing an article that we completely lose focus and end up with a 10,000 word epic instead of a concise little review. This two-part Linux TiVo article ended up being one of those articles. Of course, we aren't really building a Linux TiVo, but rather something as close as we can come, with some rudimentary hardware and free software - such as Linux and MythTV.

Considering the cost of a TiVo, service runs anywhere from $100 to $600 per year depending on what DVR and subscription you buy. Building a moderate MythTV machine for around $500 actually saves us money in the long run. Building our own device also allows us to upgrade hardware easily and reconfigure the software at our will.

Ultimately, we would like our machine comparable to a TiVo device; but in actuality, we really would like it to perform as well or better than a machine based on the same hardware running the newest Windows Media Center (Anand wrote a small MCE introduction 18 months ago). Recently, we obtained a new whitebox Media Center device with similar hardware found in this Part I of our Linux TiVo experiment. Our goal for Part I of the article is to get Linux, MythTV and all the trimmings working successfully so that we can square both machines off against each other; and then compare encoding, image quality and functionality. We are publishing Part I: The Installation today, but expect Part II: The Comparison in just a few days.

If all goes well, we will probably follow up with a Part III some weeks later, dissecting Freevo, GeexBox, etc.

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  • NullSpin - Saturday, September 4, 2004 - link

    I can't tell you how long I have been waiting for this article. I have been waiting to buy components for almost a year but did not want to wade into this project with no idea of what hardware was reccomended. I'm also really interested in seeing the process of adding an nfs server into the mix for additional storage.
    Maybe you could price out a 'quiet' system and the various form factors for htpc's.
    Can't wait for part deux.
  • sisyphus - Friday, September 3, 2004 - link

    I have just one thing to say about MythTV:

    Save yourself some time and grief!

    Use KnoppMyth!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
  • Nnyan - Friday, September 3, 2004 - link

    Just had another thought, how does MythTV compare to other applications like Freevo?
  • griffy - Friday, September 3, 2004 - link

    Great job, thanks.
    In your next article, could you let us know a little more why you chose the hardware you did, and maybe what you think the minimum might be?
  • archcommus87 - Friday, September 3, 2004 - link

    Wow, goes to show me that there are still topics out there I know NOTHING about. Most of this article was over my head. Is that because I'm not familiar with Linux or something else?

    Just the whole part about getting the card setup, the commands to run, the Myth database, etc. WHOOSH.
  • Resh - Friday, September 3, 2004 - link

    Thanks for replying Kris, but your reply makes me cry. My Hitachi doesn't have a DVI or VGA-in so unless I can get the TV-out on the vid card to work under Linux, I'm dead in the water.

    If anyone has seen any good directions on making Suse, Fedora, or Mandrake work with the TV-out on currently available nVidia card or Radeon 8500, please let me know! llama at rogers dot com

    Kris, if you can cover this in the next, or a third, I'd have your children (although my wife might object). ;-)

  • Nnyan - Friday, September 3, 2004 - link

    Cool article. My only complaint is that I would have liked to have read which distros DID work well with MythTV and perphaps the PVR-250. Perphaps in part 2?

    Thanks to skeptic for the mention of KnoppMyth distro.
  • JoeNiner - Friday, September 3, 2004 - link

    Please please please include a KnoppMyth install in a follow up!
  • KristopherKubicki - Friday, September 3, 2004 - link

    Resh: We only used a PVR-250, so there is no passthrough. We just hooked the DVI out on our GeForce card up to the TV :)

  • meksta - Friday, September 3, 2004 - link

    mythTV is perhaps the most versatile piece of software I have come across. You can build a system for cheaper if you want. I am running myth on a XP2500+ cpu and Chaintech 7nif2 mobo (built-in s-video out). I also run two el-cheapo tv tuner cards for some simultaneous recordings.

    With a PVR250, that does hardware encoding, you really don't need a kick ass cpu at all.

    I agree it takes a while to set up. But once I had it up and's been happily stable since.

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