[mythtv-users] Secrets for low powered front ends ?

Michael T. Dean mtdean at thirdcontact.com
Wed Oct 12 18:59:51 UTC 2011

On 10/12/2011 02:22 PM, Patrick Ouellette wrote:
> Unless I'm using the system for commercial flagging&  transcoding, that extra
> processing power is going to go unused.  Since the purpose is a frontend,
> commercial flagging&  transcoding are not going to be happening on it.
> The points I am making are:
> You CAN'T build an i3/i5/i7 box for the price of the Atom/ION box.

Er, perhaps /you/ can't.  I haven't paid more than $250 for a 
(non-laptop) computer system--and I've never owned an Atom system--since 
2004 (when I last bought a "gaming" system).  I currently have 9 
(non-laptop) computers in my house, and I actually buy new ones rather 
frequently.  Getting the right prices is simply a matter of buying the 
right parts on sale.  (And, no, I don't just buy random parts whenever 
they go on sale--when I decide to get a new system, I shop around and 
find the best deal on parts I need.  The only "waiting" I do after 
deciding to get a new system is waiting for myself to decide which parts 
to buy and from where.)

> Especially if you look to equilivent features outside processor speed.
> Hardware decoding will fail when new codecs are used.  For broadcast OTA
> that will force everyone to replace or update all the current TVs (again).
> By that time, there will be better/faster/cheaper hardware available.
> I don't need the processing power, so why pay the premium for it?

I agree.  When I bought a new car, I didn't buy a 200+ mph 8-core 
Xeon--because I don't need to drive that fast, don't drive anywhere that 
I /could/ go that fast, and really don't care to, even if I could.

I bought an Athlon II pickup truck that can do 75 mph without problems.  
I could have easily gotten a Core i5 sedan, or a Core i3 compact--any 
would have served my needs.

Then again, I didn't buy a tops-out-at-35 mph Atom, either.  :)  Even if 
you're only driving back and forth to the supermarket, these days, you 
never know what the future (and future versions of the software you want 
to run, such as MythTV) may require--if nothing else, you may miss out 
on some fun trips (features) because your transport just can't get you 

> No one forces anyone to use a particular platform.  Use what works for you.

Yep, but don't complain to us when that system that "works for you" 
fails to work with future versions of MythTV (due to increased hardware 
requirements for new features) or fails to perform acceptably for 
non-decoding tasks (such as running the mythconverg database) or falters 
during playback when a cron job runs or ...  :)

Simply put, the Atom is a processor that needn't exist.  It doesn't 
process well, and the Core i line can be used to build systems with all 
the benefits of Atom (low idle power usage, quiet, small form factor, 
...) but without the huge disadvantage--a hard limit on processing 
capability put in place solely to allow Intel marketing to call the chip 
"low power" (while, of course, completely ignoring the system power 
usage so they could stuff functionality into the not-so-low-power chipsets).

IMHO, if you want low-power usage, don't get the Atom processors--get an 
ARM-based system.  If you want compute performance and/or you want x86, 
get a Core i or Athlon II or ...  If only other people would stop 
rewarding systems vendors for choosing a hobbled processor, we could get 
the same volume-pricing discounts on real computer systems when they 
start selling off-the-shelf Core i-based small-form-factor/HTPC systems 
in the same market segments where the Atom-based systems currently sell.

A real computer needs trillions(?) of atoms, not just one.


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