Getting Started

The first thing that we need to do is get our hardware list ready. Obviously, all of our hardware has to work with Linux and Windows Media Center Edition (WinMCE), and we have to watch out for some "gotchas" with lirc (our remote control program) and MythTV. Although not the best distribution on which to install MythTV, we will use SuSE 9.1 for our base Linux install, since we are familiar with it and we use it for all of our other Linux benchmark testbeds. As a result, we first make sure any hardware that we use works with SuSE; listed in the hardwaredb. If a particular hardware that we pick out requires a bit more extensive installation, we can live with that as well, just so long as we can compile our own drivers.

Determining what hardware is supported on Win MCE is a bit more difficult, although there are some resources to help. Fortunately for us, we do not have to determine specifically which hardware MCE runs, since it only ships pre-installed on devices such as our whitebox Media Center. We will try to keep the components of both machines as similar as possible.

Below, we calculate the cost of the whitebox and Linux device:

Whitebox Windows MCE Device Price
CPU Sempron 3100+ -
MOBO Undisclosed -
Audio Integrated (VIA) -
Ethernet Integrated (Realtek 10/100) -
VGA GeForce 4 MX440 128MB -
Tuner Hauppauge WinTV PVR-250MCE -
HDD Western Digital 80GB WD800JB -
RAM 512MB Micron DDR400 -
Optical Sony DDU-1613 -
Remote Undisclosed -
Case Undisclosed -
OS Windows XP Media Center Edition 2004 -
Total $699

AnandTech Linux Device Price
CPU Sempron 3100+ $125
Audio Integrated (VIA) -
Ethernet Integrated (Realtek 10/100) -
VGA GeForce 4 MX440 64MB $40
Tuner Hauppauge WinTV PVR-250 $130
HDD Western Digital 80GB WD800JB $60
RAM 512MB Corsair DDR400 $75
Optical BenQ 16X OPAL-OC1 $24
Remote Included with PVR-250 -
Case Opus TT-501 $100
OS SuSE Linux 9.1 -
Total $635

As you can see, our Linux device is priced out cheaper and we even went fairly frivolous on a lot of items. Another SFF case favorite of ours, the SuperFlower SF-101, sells for $40 with power supply and looks just as good, if not better. We threw a Sempron 3100+ in our test rig for easier comparison between the MCE device and our own, but as you will see later in the analysis, there are some other benefits to using the additional computing power, such as background encoding to Xvid.

Going with a Tuner card for the Linux machine gives us many options. Originally, we had scheduled to run all of our tests with the Hauppage WinTV Go card, which does not have any hardware encoding at all - this card is actually better supported by SuSE as well. However, since we would later be comparing our test rig to a MCE unit that relies mainly on hardware encoding, we thought it best to keep the playing field level on both machines. The MCE unit uses a slightly better version of the PVR-250 card (it has onboard FM support), but for our purposes, the vanilla PVR-250 works just fine (and it comes with a remote).

If you intend to replicate our hardware setup for your own MythTV machine, choosing a WinTV Go card may save you additional cash, but you will definitely need as much crunching power as possible. Combining a software encoding with a slower processor is a recipe for disaster.

Putting all the hardware together only took about 15 minutes; our total time for installation is right now at 15 minutes.

Index Installing the OS and Drivers
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  • - Saturday, October 24, 2009 - link

    sell:nike shoes$32,ed hardy(items),jean$30,handbag$35,polo shirt$13,shox$34
  • Edster - Wednesday, September 22, 2004 - link

    If you get stuck setting up mythtv then try this web site :

    [l=PVR Guide - How-to guides for setting up mythtv][/l]
  • sthes - Wednesday, September 15, 2004 - link

    Whatever happened to part two? Anxiously awaiting the review!
  • willy134 - Tuesday, September 7, 2004 - link

    You need to mention the mythweb extension. I log into my computer from work and set up recordings. There are also plugins that allow you to view your recorded shows on a windows machine.

    The web server also has a very nice search feature and lists all the movies playing in your schedule. It's a great way to also find when a show you want to watch is playing again. Much better than looking up the listings on most web sites.
  • serff - Tuesday, September 7, 2004 - link

    Can you guys comment on HDTV support in your follow up feature? I'm very intrested in building a HD DVR for less than $1000 (which is how much all of them are right now.) I'm also intrested in dual tuner solutions as well. Does MythTV support dual tuners? Also, in MythTV, when you go to the guide, can you still see the show you are watching? Like in the corner or something? It would also be cool to know about support for burning shows to DVD as well. Thanks!

  • sasa - Monday, September 6, 2004 - link

    The system in the article is a total overkill if PVR-x50 is used.
    A 677MHz PIII can easily do the job.
    Such system can be bought on ebay for $100, then just add 200GB hd for $100, GF4 for $40, PVR-x50 for $100. Total $340.
    This system will do both front end and backend.
    It is also possible to use very low spec PC for backend (like PII) and xbox as a frontend.

    A Socket 370 PIII is consuming much less power than P4, K7 or K8 which is very important if you want to run Myth 24/7. You don't want to save $10 on tivo monthly bills while paying $20 for electricity bills.

    Very nice distro for Myth is Debian unstable.
    You just add a line into your apt config, run apt-get and it installs all dependencies.
  • sasa - Monday, September 6, 2004 - link

  • JohanV - Monday, September 6, 2004 - link

    On the one side of the comparison: A windows MCE PC (hardware satisfying certain conditions + specialized preinstalled software)

    On the other side: A PC with approximately the same hardware with a general purpose SUSE Linux install, hand-compiled/hand-compiled drivers, databases and what not.

    Not really a straight forward comparison, it's even worse than like comparing a server cpu with a desktop cpu.

    Seems only fair to use handpicked hardware on both machines, and to use specialized OS's in both cases. In other words, use KnoppMyth with hardware that is known to work with KnoppMyth without any headaches.
  • griffy - Monday, September 6, 2004 - link

    Anybody have any personal experience on the Telly MC1200, and how it might compare? I would be interested in a few words in Part II about how this option stacks up, in real terms. (Yes, I've read all the reviews.)
    Thanks for booting up an interesting area on AnandTech.
  • lbt - Monday, September 6, 2004 - link

    Several people have mentioned KnoppMyth - no-one has said why...

    You insert the CD and it installs linux and *everything* you need to run Myth. (It aims to make running Myth 'appliance' like.)

    For those who care it's a Knoppix (aka Debian) based distro.

    Total install time is measured in minutes and you don't need to know linux (well, it's still at the 'not much' stage at the minute ;) )

    Checkout for forums and help.

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