[mythtv-users] S.O.S. : General h/w question

Michael T. Dean mtdean at thirdcontact.com
Fri Oct 15 22:49:11 UTC 2004

On 10/15/2004 04:40 PM, Maarten wrote:

>On Friday 15 October 2004 20:16, Michael T. Dean wrote:
>>And, of course, a Myth box really needs the top-of-the line motherboards
>>out there...
>Well, at least mine do, yeah.  But that's because I do software encoding, not 
>hardware-assisted encoding like a PVRx50 does.
OK.  Software encoding does demand more of the system, and I hadn't 
considered that situation.  However, since the OP *already* purchased a 
cheap motherboard and *already* has PVR-x50 encoder(s), the suggestion 
(from several people--not specifically you) (paraphrasing) "it's 
probably the motherboard's fault; get a new motherboard" may not 
actually be the best advice--and that's the point I was trying to make.  
(I'll admit, I could have been more clear--and said it with a bit less 
attitude.  ;)

>>I have a PCchips M848ALU (Athlon-based with SiS chipset) using a PVR-350
>>and PVR-250 (nVidia TV out instead of PVR-350 TV out), and I have to
>>"reboot" my Dish network satellite receivers more than my Myth box (have
>>to reboot the sat receivers once a month--had to reboot my Myth box
>>after I lost power during Hurricane Jeanne).  I helped a friend build a
>>Myth box.  He has the same motherboard, but has 4 PVR-250MCE's and his
>>system works like a charm, too.
>That's very possible.  However, if I happen to have had a bad Asus board, and 
>you happen to have a good PCchips board, that doesn't neccessarily make 
>PCchips a better brand than Asus, now does it ?
Definitely true--which is why I said I'm not recommending PCChips (see 

>I've come to know PCchips as particularly flaky.  They tend to die much more 
>prematurely than other brands, they have high DOA returns, they have had some 
>real bad windows(ugh!) drivers, and the list goes on...
>Feel free to differ of opinion though, but remark that "one good board does 
>not a brand make".
Right.  Although, I've built at least 23 different computers using 
PCChips boards over the last 5 years for myself/friends.  In all of 
these systems, I haven't had a single DOA, hardware failure, or other 
problem that could be attributed to the motherboard.  "One bad board 
does not a brand make," but I'll also admit that "twenty-three good 
boards does not a brand make," and that I do *not* think PCChips is a 
good brand of MB--but it's often "good enough."

(For my reasoning behind my purchases, see my "Soapbox Sidebar" at bottom.)

>>I'm not recommending PCchips (or any other brand, for that matter)--just
>>observing that it's often easier to blame the motherboard than to blame
>>the guy who installed/configured the system. ;)
>I configured more systems than a small town could house. :-)
>Still, only yesterday I had a problem that baffled me for over 6 hours... :-(
>(think keywords lilo, raid5, BIOS mappings and you get the picture...)
And that's what makes computers so fun--you're never done learning...  
In 30 more years, I hope to be a good beginner.


(This is the off-topic part of the message to skip, but it explains the 
position I voiced above.)

/me steps on soapbox

Why cheap hardware can sometimes be "good enough."

So, why do I use so many PCChips boards?  Primarily because they're 
cheap and, save a few specialized applications--including video encoding 
and gaming--today's low-end hardware is more than sufficient for nearly 
everything people do with computers.  I refuse to spend more than $250 
on a computer (although I spent more than 3 times that on my gaming 
box), and have a total of 7 computers in my house--3 of which cost $150 
and--excluding the gaming box--none of which cost more than $235.  (Of 
course, all of these systems are running free software--GNU/Linux--and 
the only one for which I needed to buy Windows was my gaming box.)

Therefore, I make my decisions not based on brand name, but on the 
specific application (not program, but use) for which I'm making the 
purchase, the requirements of that application, and the cost/value 
relationship for the hardware components.  Note that--except on the 
gaming machine--the performance of the system has always been 
significantly greater than that required for the application.

I'll also be the first to admit that PCChips is not a "good" brand of 
motherboard.  The last system I made for a friend was one based on a 
PCChips MB.  I gave her the specs before making any purchases and she 
checked around with family/friends.  One of the specific concerns they 
had was that "PCChips is not a very good brand."  I agreed and explained 
that she could get the system I was recommending--which would cost her 
about $200 for hardware--or buy a better quality motherboard.  The 
system I was recommending included the lowest-cost components I could 
find that would give her a working system, and even a small price 
increase (i.e. $20) would equate to a large percentage increase in  
price (about 10%) for a negligible improvement in performance (the 
computer would wait for input from her more quickly--and even on 
"high-performance" systems, things like video encoding would still be 
start-it-and-walk-away-type applications, so she could just walk away 
for longer if she decided to start doing some of that).  Therefore, my 
recommendation was--unless she planned to play today's high-end 
games--to spend less, more often--because even if she spent $1000 today, 
in two years, that system will be less powerful than what she'll have if 
she spends $200 today and replaces the computer with another $200 system 
in two years (most people have come back to me for replacements in the 
2- to 4-year timeframe, but are coming back more frequently to get 2nd 
and 3rd systems for around the house).  She took my advice and is 
extremely happy with her new computer.

This is not the right approach for everyone.  Some people will perceive 
a performance difference if they "know better" than to believe what 
they're seeing.  I would not try to help someone who spends the 
time/effort researching components, reading hardware reviews, etc., to 
build a computer.  That being said, my neighbor needed a new computer 
for himself and one for his son who was going to college.  I gave him a 
recommendation for what I considered appropriate hardware for their 
specific applications.  He decided that--since all the reviews said that 
the hardware I chose was inferior quality--he would just get one system 
for his son and splurge on his own system.  Once I built it and he 
started using it, he decided that spending anything more than the 
minimum possible was a waste of money, so he came back and I helped him 
buy two more--one for him and one for his daughter--for significantly 
less than he planned to spend on the one for himself.  Imagine how much 
more pleased he would have been if Windows cost the same as Linux...  ;)

Now that I've counted up the number of systems I've helped people buy, 
I'm starting to think I'm crazy for not charging anything for the 
time/effort involved (especially the effort in convincing them that 
everything they read about buying the best-quality stuff is propaganda 
spread by those with a vested interest in selling more-expensive 
hardware).  :)

I promise to bow out of this thread, now.  :)

/me steps off soapbox

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