[mythtv-users] Tivo or build my own.. cost/time/capabilities help

Kevin Duffey andjarnic at yahoo.com
Sun Nov 4 01:17:51 UTC 2007

Hey all,

Ok, so I am a software/hardware guy, built tons of computers, networking, etc. I am going back to comcast cause my DSL has been having many problems and comcast can give me 3x the download speed and same upload, and I have yet to use the DSL static ip for anything useful as I had planned to.

I am also tossing Dish network out. Too many times I've lost service on bad weather, crappy days, a little bit of wind, or the tree blowing against the chimney that the dish is mounted to. Plus, the DVR units I have often don't work all the time, and I am constantly having to reset them and download the program guide and so on.

So, I figure, the 1 bill for phone, internet and cable, along with some sort of DVR option is the best choice.

What I want to know from you experts is, if I were to build my own with an existing AMD XP1600+ box, 1GB ram, and about 160GB HD (willing to buy larger if this is the path to go), will I get the same/similar features that I can with Tivo. That is, without being able to run a server, is there a way I can over the web, set up my home-built DVR to record something while on vacation. Can I record two programs at once while watching a 3rd recorded one. Can I share the video to more than one TV in the house without requiring computers next to each... is there some wi-fi (or networked) cheap audio/video converter that can have a video streamed to it and just play to a tv. I see that the cost is basically that of the tuner cards (about $150 each for the PVR-250 I think it was), + $20 a year for the guide info. The interface looks nice, and you get the added benefit of streaming audio, web interface, etc. However, I don't plan on using any of that at my TV as we
 use the TV speakers.

The Pros I see to building my own is.. custom configuring the box, with easily expanding the amount of shows I can record (including I assume having recorded DVDs on the hds to watch at any time, such as my kids PowerRangers and such). Also, if it's possible the big pro is the ability to have a centralized large HD storage, maybe even a home NAS of 1TB or more, and access it from any TV... although I am guessing the bad news is, it would require a computer with capture/playback card at each TV. This isn't an option for me as I only have the one box extra, and leaving it running all the time with the noise it makes is not really and option as well (that is to say, running 2 or 3 computers, one at each TV, just for playing back videos from a central NAS is not a big option for me). An alternative to this I *think*, is to use my laptop with pcmcia card that can decode/playback movies from the NAS with wifi. Then, I can just bring my laptop (with card) to
 any TV I want, and select anything I want. If this last one IS an option, any recomendations on pcmcia (or USB) card that decoded mpeg-2, mp4, etc with excellent quality?

The cons I see is #1, the time involved in getting the hardware in there, set it up, install the OS, install the mythtv software, configure everything and get it all working. The 2nd is the cost. Two tuner cards and a couple HD's will cost 3x as much as the initial two-tuner 80hour tivo box. On the other hand, the service, if I pay 3 year up front, is $8 a month, so within two years, the home built solution would break even with the Tivo solution. The biggest con I see is having a big computer box with fan noise and hd noise next to my TV. I dont have the room right now for this, although I have been considering one of those shuttle small boxes.. but then this adds to the cost greatly as I would have to buy the parts for a complete system. I could at least buy a bare-bones shuttle like computer and add some stuff (tuner card, hds basically). Still, the cost, time and size/noise factor really are pushing me to the much quieter Tivo box.

Confusion for me is things like how I split my cable output into two tuners (or more...if thats possible). Also, HD cable.. do I need expensive tuner cards to record HD content. The HD Tivo with 300 hour record (80 hours of HD I think) is like $800. That's insane! I imagine the tuner cards probably support HD already, and a 300GB HD is cheap in comparison to a Tivo at $800 for 300 hours SD/80 hours HD compared to the $80 80hour SD box they offer.

Also, remote control.. I think you can get a simple IR remote, but will it "take over" the cable box so that I don't need to use two remotes.. I can use it like I do my current Dish one.. simply find a channel, pause it, record, continue, skip, etc? Or is this not really an option.. or at least as full featured for the home PC DVR unit?

I probably have some more questions.. but I think this covers most things. Any info on good quality SD/HD tuner cards, and other stuff (laptop tuner card, etc) would be great!

Thank you.

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