[mythtv-users] Summer Project 2005, MythTV Box Proposal

John Hanauer johnhanauer at gmail.com
Sun Jun 19 00:02:20 UTC 2005

Maybe I'll address everything out of order?  I guess my original short
and to the point email left too much unanswered and the impression I
didn't know what I was doing.

> I suggest you go through the threads on this list dealing with
> hardware, particularly the pieces you're looking at, and have a think
> about what you want your box to do. Then maybe folks can help you a
> bit more.

Been doing that for a while now.  That's how I came up with this config.

> What's your goal?
> Before starting with an arbitrary price, you need to figure out what
> you want your system to do, and where you will be expanding it.

I actually had this in an original draft of my email, but I was having
subscription problems and rewrote the thing from scratch, so I didn't
end up saying.  Sorry for that.

My goal is to use all current plugins of MythTV except MythPhone, with
MythDVD on hold, beating the price of an 80-hour TiVo with lifetime
subscription (which I asssumed to be 600 dollar operating budget). 
Therefore I should say my goal is a TiVo alternative.  My only other
initial specification was to have 2 tuners.

Reason for putting MythDVD on hold is because ultimate goal with
MythDVD is to burn DVD's too.  I already have a DVD-burner in my
laptop and a DVD-player with my XBOX, so I can get by for now without
that.  But maybe if I scrap the PVR-350 for a cheaper card I can
afford to still do DVD burning within my constraints.  That's
something to consider.   Then again, putting in DVD capabalities is
replacing a DVD player to me, not a TiVo, so not to have this means
I'm still acheiving my goal of just replacing an 80 hour TiVo with
something better.

> I'm sure you realize how powerful and flexible MythTV is, and how many
> different hardware configurations are available. But unless you're
> clear about what capabilities you want your box to have, there's no
> advice I can give you on any of this.
> If you're trying to build a box cheaply, you're probably better off
> buying a used system -- anything P3 700 and above is enough if you've
> got multiple hardware cards like the PVR x50s. If you're planning on
> watching live TV (but why would you be building a Mythbox then) you'll
> probably want a P4 1G or better. Neither of these is more than a
> couple hundred used for case, power, motherboard, CPU, and if you're
> lucky, GPU, NIC, 256+ RAM, an optical drive and an HDD big enough for
> your OS, Myth TV, and a nice live TV loop -- 20 G is more than enough
> for this. You'll use the 250 from Newegg for storage.  

> I'm guessing that you're planning to run to a TV rather than a monitor
> or LCD. If you're not running to TV, you don't need the PVR 350. If
> you are, you'll probably get just as good a signal through the
> fx5200's S-Video port (assuming it has one) with a lot less headache.
> I don't use a 350, but even a cursory look at this list will tell you
> that there are issues with the out on the 350.

More specifically than my goal above, I'll also mention I want to
transcode most of my recordings to save space (MPEG-4, or a friend of
mine swears I should make everything Xvid, dunno about that) but
that's why I've got so much more processing power even with hardware
encoders.  But then, once my recordings are no longer MPEG-2 the
PVR-350 becomes less desirable.  However, I know IVTV drivers are
coming along well and the near future this might not be an issue?

> Are you building a single system, or do you plan to expand it later?

Personally one backend/frontend for now.  I'll be living in a
completely networked building for the next two years with 23 other
people at any given time, and I hope to eventually convince some of
them they should build an additional frontend for the first floor main
room.  I'd also convince as many they should build backend/frontends
for their own bedrooms to add to the distribution.  I'd probably want
to avoid leeches from just building frontends for my content (with the
exception of the one mainroom frontend on the first floor)

> What is your display device?

TV with composite, s-video, and component inputs (though it's not HD).

> Are you planning to use MythMusic (in which case running sound out of
> your TV speakers makes your music sound pretty crappy)? Do you want
> surround sound?

Yes, and surround sound would be nice on my current home audio setup
(I have everything from xbox, gamecube, laptop, pc, and ipod running
into it ... expect to do the same with my myth box) however I don't
expect to gain much other than stereo x2.

For the record, mobo I am considering in my original email has
built-in sound with s/pdif out.

Obviously my TV recordings would be stereo, DVD's though would be nice
to have Dolby and DTS since I have the speakers for it.  Though, I 
haven't chosen an optical drive yet for this package because I want to
do that later.  It's not a big deal to me, because I consider an
optical drive to be replacing my DVD player, not replacing a TiVo, so
spending outside the constraint on this is okay to me later.

> What is your TV signal source -- analog cable, digital cable, OTA,
> satellite? Will you need to deal with a separate tuner box, and if so,
> how will you change the cannels (irblaster, serial, firewire, etc)?
> Do you need HD, or the ability to expand to HD on this system?

I figure expanding to HD is certainly an option, but I dont have an
HDTV, I don't have an HD receiver (nor digital cable).  I just have
basic analog cable.

My friend thinks I should spend thousands of dollars to make this
thing HD ready NOW.  I think that's ridiculous, outside the scope of
my goal especially without anything HD currently in my posession. 
It'd be a couple years before I get HD, and by that point I bet
upgrading my Myth box to accept HD tv could mean the addition of a
firewire port, or the addition of simply an HD tuner (and a larger
hard drive, probably).  But again, that's for later.

> If you want to build a box cheaply, you could do it for $500. If you
> want a lot of speed, power and capabilities, you could spend $1500.

True, and I guess my goal is to spend as close to 600 as possible
(with a little spill over room considering the 300 dollar TiVo would
have tax).  I think I addressed most of this above.

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