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

Dan Ritter dsr-myth at tao.merseine.nu
Sun Nov 4 09:14:31 UTC 2007

On Sat, Nov 03, 2007 at 06:17:51PM -0700, Kevin Duffey wrote:

I reformatted your post into paragraphs. 72 columns: it's not
just a good idea, it's... a very good idea.

> 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.

Mostly. Also, some features that TiVo doesn't have, or only
makes available on certain models.

> 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.

No, running a web site requires running a web server. Apache is
a good choice. If Comcast is blocking inbound port 80, you can
set it on port 81 or 8080 or 16300...

> Can I record two programs at once > while watching a 3rd recorded one.

Yes; you'll need two tuners for that. 

> 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.

Yes, but it's a computer. I think the best supported of these is
the MVPMC, but I don't use one.

> 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 PVR-250 doesn't get you anything over the PVR-150, which is
cheaper. A PVR-500 is a pair of 150s on a single card. I use a
PVR-500 and an HDHomeRun, which is a pair of HDTV tuners in an
ethernet-attached box.

> 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.

I'm not sure why these two sentences are connected.

> 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.

No, just playback 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).

Well, there's the MVPMC. There's the X-Box Media Center, and
older X-Boxes running Myth's frontend on Linux. And dedicated
MythTV machines can be set to power themselves down when not in

> 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?

I don't think anyone is currently shipping such a decoder card.
However, pretty much any modern laptop, or one with an NVidia
5200 or later video chipset, will do a decent job decoding by

> 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.

1. Doesn't have to be loud.
2. Doesn't have to be right next to the TV -- cables come in a
   variety of lengths.

> Confusion for me is things like how I split my cable output into two
> tuners (or more...if thats possible).

With a splitter, of course. They are cheap. My house currently
has eight cable devices of various sorts, and I'm in no way

> Also, HD cable.. do I need expensive tuner cards to record HD
> content.

No, but you do need separate tuners for HD service. There is a
thread about cheap ones right now.

> The HD Tivo with 300 hour record (80 hours of HD I think) is like
> $800. That's insane!

Well, the 160GB TiVo is only $300, and you can add external
storage to that now. 

> I imagine the tuner cards probably support HD already

Only the cards that do HD by themselves. 

> 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?

You can get as complex a remote as you want. Personally, I use a
$20 Sony remote
and some people use $200 Logitech Harmony remotes, and some
people use magic wands.

Read the MythTV HowTo section on keys. Anything that you can do,
you can do from a sufficiently complex remote.

> 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!

Read the wiki.


Every time you give up a right, the terrorists win.
Tyranny is something that creeps up on you.

http://tao.merseine.nu:81/~dsr/eula.html is hereby incorporated by reference.

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