[mythtv-users] PVR Hardware Build

Justin The Cynical cynical at penguinness.org
Thu Jun 26 07:32:35 UTC 2008

(This turned into a much longer post than I originally thought and 
intended, but I hope it's useful)

moodyjunk at frontiernet.net wrote:
> After scouring the forums, here is what I've settled on for my PVR  
> build using MythDora and the key reasons I chose it.

Heh, your build is almost identical to my upcoming build.

Only things that are currently holding me back are a bad stick of RAM 
(need to ship that off to corsair soon) and a lack of tuners to build it 
with (don't want to steal any from the existing machine and the 
HDHomerun should be here in a day or so).

> * case - Silverstone LC17 (good cooling reputation, style, extremely quiet)

I have this case.  It is very quiet, but if I was to do it again, I 
would have picked something else.

Things I judged as Bad Things(tm):

The case can take ATX boards, but it's a tight fit.

The front CD tray covers are held on by double sided tape of all things.

The drive bays are pains to get in and out, due to where the mounting 
screws are located.

> * motherboard - Intel DP35DPM (ATX, Northbridge Intel P35, Southbridge  
> Intel ICH9R, Auido chipset SigmaTel STAC9271D, LAN Chipset Intel  
> 82566DC; Supports Core 2 Duo (et al), 8G max DDR2 800, 6 SATA 3Gb/s, 1  
> IDE ATA100, Gigabit LAN, S/PDIF TOSLINK (optical) 5.1 audio, 1 PCIe  
> x16, 3 PCIe x1 (all unused), 3 PCI

This is the board I have for my new build.  I've not done a heck of a 
lot of work with it yet, but this is what I have found so far.

Intel places stability at the top of the list when designing boards, 
which leads to things such as the board being fairly picky about RAM and 
the BIOS is pretty simple (1.8v, CAS of 5 is the only supported RAM and 
there are no RAM options to adjust).  Overclocking is pretty much 
impossible to do without some jumping through hoops, if at all.  I don't 
think you would need to with the CPU you list, but if you are thinking 
about it, I wouldn't get this board.

One annoying thing for me is that the SATA ports are very close together 
and arranged in such a manner that if one plugs a locking cable (such as 
the type that Intel includes with the board) in SATA port 1 and 2, the 
plug in 1 will interfere with the plug in port 2 if you ever need to 
remove it.  This is a problem with all four ports, as the ports are all 
arranged in the same direction and facing (look at the picture of the 
board and you can see what I'm referring to).  Port 1 is also a bit 
close to a jumper block, so that may be an issue if the cable needs to 
be removed from the board.  On the other hand, one knows they are very 
secure when plugged into the socket.

Also, ports 5 and 6, while on a different section of the board and not 
blocked by the other four ports, are on a 'shared' section of the SATA 
bus (or so I've read).  Port 5 looks like the other 4 ports for internal 
SATA, while port 6 is a different colour.  I believe it's intended for 
the ESATA bracket and cable that Intel includes.  It seems that Intel 
decided that only one of the two ports would be used at a time.

One review I read stated that when a optical drive was in port 5 and a 
ESATA drive was attached to port 6 via said bracket, the optical drive 
did a disappearing act every so often when the drive was accessed, as 
well as being very slow on data transfers.  It might be something to 
keep in mind.

> processor - Intel E8400 Wolfdale 3.0GHz Core 2 Duo)

Good chip.  Runs very cool, has a good amount of cache.  I hate the 
stock Intel heat sink mounting 'solution', however.  Those damned push 
pin things stink, and it's a /very/ freaking tight fit.  I wasn't able 
to put mine on without removing the board unless I used an uncomfortable 
amount of pressure.  It's also tight enough that the board has a slight 
bend due to the amazingly crappy mounting design and said tightness.

Get a 3rd party CPU heat sink that doesn't use the bleeding push pins.

I'll let you know if I find anything beyond a CoolerMaster version of 
the stock heat sink.  :-)

Regarding your other post, I decided on a cooler running, lower power 
chip with more cache over the hotter running quad core.  And personally, 
I don't see a Myth system making use of all four cores all that often. 
Transcoding stuff usually gets a boost from a larger cache on the CPU as 
I understand it.

> * memory - Kingston KVR800D2K2/2GR (2x1G DDR2 800 - PC2 6400)

Can never have too much memory.  I've run my current Myth system with 
512 for a long time and it was fine, but it was also a bare minimum 
Linux from scratch install.  I've noticed that the prebuilt Myth distros 
want a bit more RAM (Mythbuntu recommends a minimum of 1 gig).

> * graphics card - Zotac ZT-76SEH2P-HSL (PCIe x16, nVidia GeForce  
> 7600GS, fanless)

Quiet card with a bit of speed and XvMC support, if needed.  You 
probably won't with that CPU (I picked it myself so I wouldn't have to 
use XvMC) but it doesn't hurt to have the ability.

> * PSU - Corsair HX620W (modular cabling, extremely quiet)

620 may be a bit more than needed.  I'd look at the HX520 if you want to 
stick with Corsair and still get modular cables.  Seasonic is my 
preference, but as I understand it, Seasonic is the OEM for Corsair.

I've got the HX520 in the house server and it's a very nice and quiet 
supply.  The modular cables are a /very/ good thing, and they make me 
wish I had sprung for modular cables on the Seasonic I got for the new 
Myth build.

> * tuner - pcHDTV HD-5500 (2xPCI, digital)

While I do believe in supporting companies that make kit for Linux 
specifically, there are less expensive cards out there that will work 
fine.  Myself, I've started moving away from cards and have a HDHomerun 
on it's way.

> * tuner - PVR-500 (1xPCI, analog)

Potentially of limited lifespan.  Do you have a cable box that has 
analogue output, or are there local stations that have not moved to ATSC 
yet?  All of my locals are broadcasting digital alongside of the 
analogue, so I got rid of my analogue tuner and went all digital.

> * hard drive - Samsung HD103UJ 1TB (7200 RPM SATA 3.0G/s, extremely quiet)

One can never have enough space.  :-)

> * DVD burner - Lite-On DH-20A4H-08 (IDE)

I'd suggest getting a SATA drive over a PATA (I'm assuming you are 
referring to parallel IDE vs serial IDE).  The prices are about the 
same.  While you really won't see much, if any, performance gains over 
parallel IDE, there is one large advantage to serial:

The cable management is a dream compared to parallel IDE, even the 
rounded ones.  I want to convert all my systems to SATA, either by 
upgrading or getting those fiddly little adaptors.  I find that the 
advantages in cable management are well worth the price of admission.

64 vs 32:  I've seen people report that the 64 bit installs runs faster 
than 32 bit, and others report that there isn't anything in the Myth 
system as a whole that makes use of 64 bit, so stick with 32 bit for 
better compatibility.  I'd try both and see which one works better for you.

RAID:  You are correct regarding the loose one drive, loose the entire 
array part.  RAID 5 would be the minimum I would consider if I was 
currently building a RAID array (I want to make one for more than just 
Myth usage) simply for speed and redundancy (one can loose a single 
drive and still be up and running).  RAID 6 is one is a bit more 
paranoid.  For real paranoia, there is RAID 1+0.

One thing I did notice is that you don't specify another drive for the 
OS and database.  IF you don't have plans to have a separate drive for 
the OS and database, I would suggest you do so.  Granted, the machine 
will have enough grunt that it shouldn't make any real difference, but 
smallish drives are cheap, and it's a better idea to keep the 
housekeeping bits away from the drive where a Myth system keeps all the 
heavy lifting data.  After all, no matter how fast the drive is, it is 
still only a single spindle and a R/W head can only move so fast.

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