[mythtv-users] Some questions before I breakout the Mastercard

Kevin D. Snodgrass kds.mythtv at cox.net
Wed Mar 17 02:35:50 EST 2004

I've been reading this list and various other sources of 
info for quite a while, went to a presentation on MythTV put 
on by OLUG (Omaha Linux User Group), read hardware websites, 
and now I'm at a point where I'm not getting any more 
answers.  Guess it's time to buy some hardware and try this 
thing out.  I have several questions on several issues.

First, here is what I would like to do.  I'm planning on 
building one new machine to replace my 4 VCRs (plus 1 that 
is currently non-functional).  I would like to do this with 
a single computer (but might do the frontend/backend 
arrangement), and this computer will be used exclusively (or 
nearly so) for this purpose.  Here is a quicky schematic, 
hope this looks right. :-)  (In gedit, monospace font it 
looks fine!)

              | signal  amp |
                |  |   |  |
    |------<----|  |   |  |----->----->----->----->------|
    |              |   |                                 |
    |     |----<---|   |--->---|                         |
    |     |                    |                         |
    v |---v---|       |---<----|--->---|                 v
    | |Digital| |->--||        |       ||---->---->----| |
    | | Cable | |    ||        |       ||              | |
    v |  Box  | ^ |--vv--------v-------v^------------| | |
    | |--v--v-| | |PVR-250  PVR-250  PVR-350  Future | v v
    |    |  |   | |                           HD-TV? | | |
|-----| |  |   | |  MythTV Computer         Capture | | |
|Cable| |  |   ^ |                           Card?  | | |
|Modem| |  |   | |----------------------------------| v v
|-----| v  |->-|                                      | |
         |                                             | |
         |    |-----<-----<-----<-----<-----<-----<----| |
         |    |    |-----<-----<-----<-----<-----<-----<-|
         |    |    |
      |   Stereo &       |
      |   TV Setup       |

1 computer, 2 PVR-250s for capture, 1 PVR-350 for both 
capture and playback, maybe an HD-TV capture card in the 
future.  I have no WAF stuff to worry about, just my inner 
geek. :-)  One of the PVR-250s will get a feed from the 
cable box AND an analog feed.

Questions: (If you can only answer one or two, go ahead.  I 
don't expect anyone to know the answers to everthing I ask.)

1) On a PVR-250, can I have two inputs, one coax cable and 
the other S-Video or composite?  The pics look like it, but 
the online docs don't answer diffinitively.

2) Would I be better off using a video card for playback?

2a) If so, what video card(s) will give me the highest 
quality playback?

2a1) And, if so to that, do embedded graphics systems have 
decent playback?  My laptop with a Rage Mobility 128 does 
fairly well (to the laptop LCD) so I assume ATX systems with 
a modern graphics chip will also.  (Assuming driver issues 
don't bite me...)

3) Which Linux distro would be a good choice?  I see several 
people using Fedora, but am dubious about using Fedora 
because of the short lifespan.  I have been using Red Hat 
since RH 4.x, so I might spring for Red Hat's workstation 
distro.  Suse 9, Debian unstable, KnoppMyth (is it 
installable?) and Gentoo are also up for consideration.

4) I have read there may be issues with MythTV (or ivtv or 
??) and kernel versions 2.6.x.  Are these resolved?  I would 
very much like to use kernel 2.6.x for built in SATA and 
better chipset support.

5) Speaking of chipset support, which chipset should I get? 
  NForce 2 (AMD), 875P (P4) or ATI's (P4)?  VIA and SIS just 
seem to have too many problems.  The new ATI chipset looks 
very intersting, but is there support for it in Linux? 
NForce 2 has issues also, but they seem to be less of a 
problem if using the closed source NForce drivers from 
NVidia.  Onboard LAN must work.

6) From what I read the PVR-[23]50 cards embed the sound in 
the MPEG2 stream, so if I use a 350 for playback I don't 
need a soundcard, correct?  If I do, onboard would be nice, 
if it can reproduce good surround sound quality output.  I 
realize if I use a video card for playback I will have to 
use either a soundcard or onboard solution.  PCI slots are 
going to be scarce.

7) If I use a PVR-350 for playback I would like to locate 
this machine in a different room.  What output formats does 
it provide?  I think I have read that it has S-Video and 
composite outputs.  What is the max distance for these?

8) Anything else I should consider?

My plan is to get at least a 3GHz processor, 1GB RAM, 2 
large SATA disks and a DVD burner.  Might even go with SATA 
RAID 5, if I can get 4 disks attached.  (Do any motherboards 
have 4 SATA headers?)  I'm not afraid to spend money to get 
what I want, but I really don't want to waste money on 
something that doesn't work well.  Bottom line is it must 
work very reliably.  I'll be near Reindeer Lake, Manitoba 
Canada fishing for lake trout in early June, right in the 
middle of the hockey playoffs.  No cable TV up there, and no 
Internet connection to ssh into the system and deal with 
anything that gets borked.  That gives me about 2.5 months 
to get this thing built and working.  Plenty of time, but I 
also my be buying a business at any time, and that will 
seriously cut down on time for tweaking.

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