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Entertainment Software Hardware Linux

Linux PVRs Highlighted 264

Posted by timothy
from the shifting-time-and-space dept.
foolinator writes "Yahoo News is featuring an article highlighting TiVO alternatives. This includes MythTV (my favorite), Freevo, and even sites on how to start as a newbie. All of us who subscribe to the mailing lists be prepared to help out the newbies as Linux PVRs become more mainstream."
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Linux PVRs Highlighted

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  • TiVo uses Linux too! (Score:5, Informative)

    by mdrejhon (203654) * on Tuesday June 08, 2004 @09:25PM (#9372956) Homepage
    This is great -- more PVR software to help innovate PVR along.

    But remember, TiVo uses Linux too! There's a TiVo hacker forum here [tivocommunity.com].
    • But they have done a pretty good job of locking you out, satrting with the Series 2 units. I personaly think this is a serious abuse of the GPL.
  • by Allen Zadr (767458) * <Allen@Zadr.gmail@com> on Tuesday June 08, 2004 @09:25PM (#9372962) Journal
    Tivo is a service. The service is tied to a hardware platform, but it's still a service.

    It occurs to me that trying to use one of these alternatives will work great until the automated TV listing parser stops working due to a moved web page or some other problem.

    I would be willing to update a system every couple of months if necessary, but my Mother sure wouldn't...
    more importantly, Dave Letterman wouldn't.

    • by garcia (6573) * on Tuesday June 08, 2004 @09:34PM (#9373026) Homepage
      Tivo is a service. It occurs to me that trying to use one of these alternatives will work great until the automated TV listing parser stops working due to a moved web page or some other problem.

      I am more trusting of a freely available software package rather than a service. What happens if Tivo goes bankrupt or ups the price or whatever?

      If a website changes and code needs to be fixed the people running the software will do so and get the changes down to the endusers quickly.

      Even if it doesn't work anymore at least I wouldn't be losing money like I would if Tivo died.
      • by Allen Zadr (767458) * <Allen@Zadr.gmail@com> on Tuesday June 08, 2004 @09:42PM (#9373092) Journal
        That's where TCO analysis comes into play. How much is it worth to you to have someone send you the updated stuff, automatically, over the life of the hardware as compared to the do-it-yourself DVR?

        I doubt that I could build a computer to do what TiVo does for less than twice what a TiVo costs (just the hardware), add monthly fees - and I'm thinking that it would take two or three years to break even.

        This stuff is really cool - and I like the fact that a single system can stream video across my home, but I wouldn't realistically use this.

        Finally, with David Letterman (Late night talk-show host, for those whom don't know) plugging TiVo continuously on his show... I doubt that TiVo is going away anytime soon.

      • by ehintz (10572) on Tuesday June 08, 2004 @10:34PM (#9373442) Homepage
        I am more trusting of a freely available software package rather than a service. What happens if Tivo goes bankrupt or ups the price or whatever?

        If a website changes and code needs to be fixed the people running the software will do so and get the changes down to the endusers quickly.

        Even if it doesn't work anymore at least I wouldn't be losing money like I would if Tivo died.

        If Tivo goes belly up, just roll your own data (or more likely join a community of people who do). The Tivo guide data format is hardly a secret these days. The service actually exists in the UK and US, but there are thriving widly active Tivo communities in AU and Canada. I've been running a service emulator for New Zealand since April, and before that we (NZ) were all manually loading guide data. So if Tivo Inc. goes belly up, those of you in the US will surely band together quickly and no doubt have a solid system running in no time flat... The Aussies have a really nice setup, with seemingly very reliable guide data and the like, and the numbers in the states eclipse AU by several orders of magnitude.
    • by Snad (719864) <mspace@bigfoo[ ]om ['t.c' in gap]> on Tuesday June 08, 2004 @09:37PM (#9373059)

      It occurs to me that trying to use one of these alternatives will work great until the automated TV listing parser stops working due to a moved web page or some other problem.

      Indeed. I was very interested in MythTV, but given that there are currently no active, reliable ways to obtain the program listings for New Zealand television (such as it is...) the whole thing became rather moot.

      One of the great advantages I saw was being able to present my gf with a list of TV program names on screen that she wanted to record (or had recorded and therefore could play back), rather than dick around with the video tapes and the (let's face it) pathetic UI that exists on most video recorders.

      Without that program listing things like MythTV lose some of their gloss.

      The obvious solution being that I should create my own mechanism for scraping NZ TV websites for program listings but I spend far too much time on /. to have time to create, and more importantly maintain, such a method. My gf, and my mother, and their work colleagues would be even less inclined to do so.

      Of course, being in such a small country we're SOL with regard to any kind of TiVo-like service anyway.

      • by nathanh (1214) on Tuesday June 08, 2004 @10:15PM (#9373322) Homepage
        Indeed. I was very interested in MythTV, but given that there are currently no active, reliable ways to obtain the program listings for New Zealand television (such as it is...) the whole thing became rather moot.

        Yeah, good point. The live-tv stuff I must admit isn't very useful to me. What I use MythTV for is saying "I want all episodes of BLAH and you figure it out". Then I come back a few weeks later and watch them all back to back.

        Without a functional tv_grab script I simply wouldn't bother. Thankfully the tv_grab_au script does seem to work pretty well. I see tv_grab_nz in the xmltv install. Does it not work for you?

      • I'm a mythtv user in NZ. Have been using for the last 4 months as a PVR, no problems (after six months of getting everything working correctly)

        I have a working tv_grab_nz which scrapes off the TV1,TV2 + Sky Web sites. Works about 95% of the time at the moment.

        I planning a rewrite of it to make it a lot more reliable, and fix up some of the quirks that trip up mythtv a little.

        Once working to my liking, I plan on submiting up to the tv_grab people, so us NZ's are left behind in the stone age.
    • by elykyllek (543092) * on Tuesday June 08, 2004 @09:38PM (#9373066) Homepage
      The latest version of MythTV uses Zap2It's datadirect service [zap2it.com] which does not scrape webpages. They have also said in their forums that it will remain free, your only obligation is to fill out a survey every three months to continue the subscription.
      • Uh, again - me, sure. My mother, no way in hell would she do that. Hell, my wife is really computer savvy, but that's far to much of a pain in the ass for her as well.

        Also, I remember the last company [redhat.com] to say they would keep a product free, just fill out this form.

        It's a subscription at a different price. Time vs. Money.

        • Uh, again - me, sure. My mother, no way in hell would she do that.

          So why don't you (for example) charge your mother 1/5 of what the TiVo subscription fees to maintain her xmltv software via ssh.

          That sort of business model worked for CodeWeavers [codeweavers.com].

      • I have a high level of concern over this issue, also. I would be happy to pay a reasonable cost (say 50% of the TIVO fee?) for a reliable long term non changing source of listings. I'm suspicous of this whole "Direct" Zap2It thing. They want to issue you a "certificate", and then require you to fill out a survey. And for all this you get about 3 months of service. I suspect that their bussiness model will not work any better (if they have one) than so many of the dotcom models. Someone pleas convince me
      • by Lumpy (12016) on Wednesday June 09, 2004 @08:23AM (#9375721) Homepage
        They have also said in their forums that it will remain free, your only obligation is to fill out a survey every three months to continue the subscription.

        I highly doubt it. and is one of the major reasons I gave up and abandoned my MythTV box for a replayTV box. It took me 3 days to find a working "subscription code" for the zap2it.com page and finally found one not with mythtv's forums but in the XMLTV user mailing list. the whole thing leaves a really bad taste in my mouth coupled with the fact that it becomes a maintaince fight getting everything working well. Besides XMLTV's US data scraper has also changed to that data source...

        My three requirements for a PVR, that drove me to mythtv was Ability to extract the mpeg's, upload my mpegs, and no subscription fees.

        I can see enough into the future to know that zap2it will certianly start charging fees by the end of this year. It's not worth the fight. I had spend at least 1 weekend a month updating xmltv every time the guide data breaks as well as other "updates" to the myth platform.

        I'm switching to a replayTV and the assorted software that make it really stinking easy to do what I want sans the free guide data..

        so yes, $13.00 a month is worth me not having to screw with it, and $100.00 for the replayTV new cant be even touched by any of the linux PVR's.

        I look at my $13.00 monthy bill as a "dont have to screw with it" payment.

        Dont get me wrong, MythTV is the best linux PVR out there... 3 times faster than freevo (I tried for months to get freevo to work smoothly and fast.) and really easy to get going if you follow the docs...

        but the guide data is going to be the death of them all, zap2it is not going to keep giving out free data forever.
        • zap2it code (Score:3, Insightful)

          by lorcha (464930)

          one of the major reasons I gave up and abandoned my MythTV box for a replayTV box. It took me 3 days to find a working "subscription code" for the zap2it.com page and finally found one not with mythtv's forums but in the XMLTV user mailing list.

          Did you ever consider just looking at the Mythtv installation docs [mythtv.org]? FYI, the code is "ZIYN-DQZO-SBUT". It was all over the mythtv forums and lists, but the easiest place to get it is in the install docs where it belongs.

          I can see enough into the future to know t

    • Ahhh yes young grasshopper....

      But zap2it.com is catching on and just added XML data downloads to their labs. They call it datadirect or some such nonsense. No more parsing hundreds of webpages for the listings. You just get a nice XML download. Mythtv already supports it great.

      Check it out yourself at http://labs.zap2it.com.

      MythTV has a code to use for signup in their setup documents and with that and a short survey you are in business.
    • until the automated TV listing parser stops working

      Yeah, except that zap2it now provides users with a direct xml feed for free (well, at the cost of a small survey every 3 months). It's integrated into mythtv, and there is a grabber for xmltv.

    • "it occurs to me that trying to use one of these alternatives will work great until the automated TV listing parser stops working due to a moved web page or some other problem.
      "

      Fair point... except most of the major homebrew PVR software applications no longer use screenscraping. IIRC the latest XMLTV uses a direct connection to get the guide data (from zaptoit i *think*)... the guide data is starting to find ways to partner with the diff software out there...

      Also although it's not free (either as in beer
      • So, why turn my back on cheaper hardware (TiVo), for a slightly lower subscription service (Any of the alternatives) just to use a fully Open product (TiVo runs on Linux, too).

        To me, if TiVo's the best, and still cheaper (at least for the first couple of years of use), why use homebrew except for bragging rights?

        • by enrico_suave (179651) on Tuesday June 08, 2004 @10:23PM (#9373366) Homepage
          "To me, if TiVo's the best, and still cheaper (at least for the first couple of years of use), why use homebrew except for bragging rights?"

          well, as I've stated on many occasions... building your own PVR isn't for everybody. It helps if you like to tinker with PCs/software/etc... not everyone likes to DIY but I do =) [randomdrivel.com]

          that said, I love my Tivo.. but it isn't everything. I kinda wish I got a replayTV as Tivo's home media options (which you pay more to network your Tivo to your PC, sorta) is a joke.

          A tivo with lifetime subscription is 110 (after rebate 40 hours) + 300... 410

          I'd much rather pay that in hardware/toys to play with (you do know you are on slashdot, right? =)) and then some to have MORE functionality (like weather modules, RSS feeds, MAME, mp3's, divx, and so on....)...

          *shrug* again DIY PVr is not for everyone, but it's not a meritless endeavor. And yes, you may end up spending more, especially if you want it small/sexy looking, than you'd ever pay for a Tivo+subscription...

          I must say in the short time I've been running the site, the advancements in the software has been really amazing... SageTV (not free beer/speech... cue boo's and hisses) works awesome with my pvr350 and approaches tivo-esque look/feel/usability...

          YMMV,

          e.
          • I kinda wish I got a replayTV as Tivo's home media options (which you pay more to network your Tivo to your PC, sorta) is a joke.
            Actually, as of today TiVo now includes their home media option free with your normal TiVo subscription.

            Also, they now provide a multiunit discount, after the first TiVo additional units are half price for monthly subscriptions.
        • by Ath (643782) on Wednesday June 09, 2004 @07:31AM (#9375476)
          To me, if TiVo's the best, and still cheaper (at least for the first couple of years of use), why use homebrew except for bragging rights?

          Here's one reason: I live in Europe but have a remote MythTV box setup in the USA. I remotely control it and download whatever I record. I cannot do that with a TiVo.

          A second reason is that some PVRs have additional functions built in. MythTV has add-ons for DVDs, music, weather, web browsing, videogame emulation, photos, etc.

          TiVo is great. I love it. But for some, it may not do everything they want. For that, there is MythTV! Of course, it's not for the technically phobic people...

  • Schedules (Score:4, Funny)

    by andyrut (300890) on Tuesday June 08, 2004 @09:26PM (#9372971) Homepage Journal
    One of the things that makes TiVO so great is that it knows what television programs are on by downloading a schedule. With a free alternative, will some free service offer updated schedules so the devices know what's on, or will "homebrew" PVR users have to program it manually like a VCR?

    Also, given past incidents [slashdot.org] involving competing products with similar names, the makers of Freevo might be "linspired" to avoid a name so similar to TiVO.
    • Re:Schedules (Score:2, Informative)

      by elbarsal (232181)
      will "homebrew" PVR users have to program it manually like a VCR?


      For those who haven't looked more closely, MythTV uses a web listing service (I believe Zap2it) to get its listings. It really wouldn't be very useful if it had to be manually programmed, would it?
  • Just you wait... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by lukewarmfusion (726141) on Tuesday June 08, 2004 @09:30PM (#9372999) Homepage Journal
    From the front page of www.byopvr.com: "I'm very sorry that our modest hosting buckled under the strain."

    As a result of the CNN/Yahoo article(s), no less. Just wait until they see what Slashdot can do!

    BTW, this is the exact site for me. I've been talking about doing this for a while, and every time I see an article on Slashdot I get a little closer to actually building one. I'm really excited now.
  • Don't forget pcHDTV (Score:5, Informative)

    by YetAnotherName (168064) on Tuesday June 08, 2004 @09:32PM (#9373016) Homepage
    Recall that all of these efforts are standard definition television. Despite the nay-sayers, high definition television is indeed a reality, and has Linux support thanks to the HD-2000 [pchdtv.com] card, which I'm happy to report has no support for Windows.

    What a breath of fresh air. Now, back to watching hard-disk recordings of Alias featuring the supremely-cute Jennifer Gartner, who, in high-def, has many supremely-cute freckles.
    • Ugh. Why must I type her last name as "Gartner" over and over again? I know it's Garner. Sheesh. (Must have something to do with some ancient genetic muscle memory ... or something.)
    • Thumbs up to Alias.

      Thumbs down to not having high definition. Comcast doesn't offer it in my area yet - and the few HD broadcasts don't justify buying an HD tuner at this point. So frustrating... and with a 57" HD monitor, too.

      When HD is a reality for me, then I'll care. Not to belittle your complaints, but I'm still bitter that I don't have it. Argh.
      • Thumbs down to not having high definition. Comcast doesn't offer it in my area yet - and the few HD broadcasts don't justify buying an HD tuner at this point.

        Incidentally, even if Comcast did offer it, that wouldn't buy you anything unless you used their PVR (which may come long after HDTV to your area).

        They are only now coming out with tuner cards that will work with the type of encoding used by HD streams over cable (QAM). As far as I know there is *no* PVR software available for those cards yet.

        As

    • by palutke (58340) * on Tuesday June 08, 2004 @09:49PM (#9373157)
      . . . and has Linux support thanks to the HD-2000 [pchdtv.com] card, which I'm happy to report has no support for Windows.

      Why would you be happy to report that? It just hurts their chances of staying in business.
      • Because the more companies that focus more on Linux and OSS systems than they do on Windows systems, the more people will be attracted.

        I know you'll probably say that the market for Linux devices is tiny.. and I'll agree with you on that, however, it's growing incrementally every day as more and more people are introduced to it in a friendly way. Working in electronics retail I've come upon many people who want to try Linux but are afraid of it because of horror stories, or someone closeby tries to scare t
      • by swillden (191260) * <shawn-ds@willden.org> on Tuesday June 08, 2004 @11:05PM (#9373640) Homepage Journal

        It just hurts their chances of staying in business.

        Maybe, maybe not. I think Linux market penetration is approaching the point where vendors can maintain a viable Linux-only business. The advantage to supporting *only* Linux and not Windows is that they have a chance to gain Linux market mindshare and recognition as *the* Linux solution. Basically, they're betting that it's better to be the default option of a small market, rather than just another also-ran in a much larger market.

        Is their strategy a good one? Only time will tell. I do think, however, that they've picked a very good technology to try it with. Using your PC as a PVR is a fairly geeky thing to do, given the existence of dedicated, relatively inexpensive devices like TiVo, and running Linux on your PC is also a fairly geeky thing to do. It seems likely that a much higher percentage of Linux users than Windows users would be interested in such technology. The absolute number of Windows PVR on PC users is larger, I'm sure, but the competition for those users is tougher. It's entirely possible that nearly 100% of the Linux market is actually more cards than 10% or whatever of the Windows market.

        Time will tell, of course.

    • I love the picture on the front! THAT makes you appreciate the penguin logo.

      On the down side, I was hoping it was the first video capture card for digital cable. Unforunately, there's still no hint we'll ever see one.

      It doesn't support satellite broadcasts either, the website says. I think this proprietary communication is really starting to hit us. Are you ready to tell your grandchildren about the days when we could capture video in our computers, and didn't have to pay by the minute to use PVR?

      • Ok, here's some tuners that will work on Linux.

        First of all, check out this [linuxtv.org] site to get the dvb drivers. For ease of use, they also have a patched kernel tree in CVS you can pull down and compile.

        Second, if you're a non DirectTV satellite customer, you can get HDTV sat streams if your provider conforms to the DVB-S standard (ie not DirectTV). Or, if you're in Europe and your standard cable provider conforms to the DVB-C standard, you're in luck as well. Snap up one of the TechnoTrend cards from here [usa-x.org]. Thes
    • Sorry, if it doesn't support Windows, I won't buy it. I would have bought it in a jiffy if it supported both Linux AND Windows.

      I'm not getting locked into EITHER platform here. I'd prefer a compromise. Nearly every other piece of hardware I own I specifically buy such that it is cross-platform, I am not about to change that.

      If the pcHDTV folks are too smug to bother supporting Windows, I'll continue being to smug to support their Linux-only product.
  • by mmarlett (520340) on Tuesday June 08, 2004 @09:34PM (#9373027)
    ... and could do nothing.

    From one of the links that you probably can't get to by now:

    I'm happy to welcome the influx of new visitors who found the site via the "Step aside TiVo, here comes Freevo " Reuters story CNN Money | Yahoo News | etc.

    I'm very sorry that our modest hosting buckled under the strain. Ironically I was in the middle of moving the site to a new dedicated server to better cope with the growing interest in the site, when this hit the fan. We are now on that dedicated server, and it seems to be holding up fine (*knocks on wood*) I'm a little afraid this article will end up on slashdot then the site will really be toast.

    • by enrico_suave (179651) on Tuesday June 08, 2004 @10:03PM (#9373242) Homepage
      lol... you got me there =)

      I meant to spend the day readying a nice new dedicated server for byopvr. I spent the day hot potato getting the site migrated off the VPS (after the first crushing courtesy of reuters/yahoo news)... then pvrblog [pvrblog.com] graciously linked to the site and that influx of new visitors crushed the new server, before I could even get to optimize it... now this... now this... =)

      The site you see now is slightly pared down to help it limp through the crisis. I didn't really think anyone would post it to /. or if they did it would be to the original news story and somehow that would slow down the effect. *shrug* man was I wrong...

      e.
  • by howman (170527)
    This is all fine and dandy as a recording medium goes, but I would like to see the technology put to some other uses, like recording my incomming e-mail messages direct to memory stick while skipping the spam.
    For my mom, who works a couple days a week, the ability to record her soap programs, sans interuptions, while she is at work is great. I just find that if you record a 1 hr show without commercials, you get about 40 min of video on average. You spend 40 min watching this and recording another 30 min
  • Advert skipping (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 08, 2004 @09:36PM (#9373048)

    do any of the the nix PVR's have advert skipping ?
    as in advert skipping where it doesnt record the adverts (as apposed to fast forwarding)

    i know its difficult but usually there are cues in the TV signal itself (bars etc) (like the film companies used to use markers to tell the projectionist when to change reels)

    be a nice challenge, or even for the future using bayes filters to train what is an advert and what isnt

    thoughts ?
  • Actually have (Score:5, Informative)

    by DrWho520 (655973) on Tuesday June 08, 2004 @09:37PM (#9373050) Journal
    My roommate and I actually built one of these. Its a great project that provided much anit-Wintel fun. It also provided a great reason to add wirless to the condo.

    Gentoo Linux and an Athlon XP 2400 mate up very nicely. Only thing missing is that WinTV-PVR-350, deffinately the most expensive piece of hardware but well worth the $165+ price tag. We started with FreeVo, but decided on MythTV. It was much more mature a year ago.
    • Re:Actually have (Score:2, Informative)

      by bigbaddumbdog (786623)
      Screw the PVR350. I have 2 WinTV tuners with an Athlon XP 2400+. They encode 2 channels of MPEG4 at 640x480 and supply upto 3 MythTV frontends all simultaneously and only use 85% of the CPU.
      • Re:Actually have (Score:3, Informative)

        by The Vulture (248871)
        I wouldn't say screw the PVR-350 quite yet. If you don't have any plans to use the TV-Out part of it (which is somewhat limited right now), the PVR-250 is an excellent card.

        The picture quality on the PVR-250 is much better than a WinTV (bttv card), and it's hardware encoding does take a lot of strain off of the CPU (if you want to use a slower CPU).

        But, for me, the best part is the native MPEG-2 encoding. If I decide to save something that I recorded, I can load it into any MPEG-2 editor, cut out the co
  • myhtpc (Score:2, Insightful)

    Though not Linux-based, myHTPC totally rocks.
  • I have tried both freevo and mythtv and found that neither are exactly to my liking. Right now I use mencoder and cron to record any tv shows that I might want to watch later, and tvtime to watch tv live. I know its not a total solution, but thats not what I'm looking for: I don't have the luxury of having an extra pc to be a dedicated pvr(or for that matter a tv), thus I find mencoder does exactly what I want it to do. Are there any others out there that use alternatives to freevo and mythtv to record / wa
  • by tjasond (680156) on Tuesday June 08, 2004 @09:46PM (#9373127)
    This is just not broad enough for people to actually see the differences between the various htpc alternatives. Many of us htpc fans started over a year ago here [thegreenbutton.com] or here [xpmce.com] or here [mythtv.org]. This review, frankly, is inadequate. There are far more issues than meets the eye when making your own htpc, whether myth or xp mce. I'm not advocating either one, I'd just like to remark, after building my own htpc from scratch, that this article tells little to nothing about the pain and suffering of completing this complex task on your own.
    • Amen.
      I figured that Memorial Day weekend was a good weekend to try and get this working.. I had found a handy-dandy step-by-step guide on how to install MythTV on Fedora Core here.. I figured, how hard can it be?

      I was wrong, by far... I never could get LIRC to run under Fedora Core 1, let alone the two instances I need (One for my remote, and the other to control my homemade IR Transmitter to control my digital cable box).

      So, I tried another alternative, that being KnoppMyth [mysettopbox.tv], a Knoppix disc customized fo
    • That's why you buy one from TiVo.

      I've considered buying an Xbox and turning into one of these, but it seems that all this stuff is still pretty flakey to get it working together harmoniously. Then again, it's linux and when does linux ever work harmoniously? The cost also seems high for something that just records television. Then again, people who buy TiVo's apparently swear by them.

      (I use and prefer linux so it'd be like modding down a windows user for bitching about windows)
  • Mythtv Setup Guide (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 08, 2004 @09:49PM (#9373152)
    If you want to learn how to set up mythtv, this is about as complete a guide as I have ever seen:

    www.wilsonet.com/mythtv

    Mad props to Jarod Wilson

    I originally had a fedora core box, but I recently switched it over to gentoo.

  • by Openstandards.net (614258) <slashdot AT openstandards DOT net> on Tuesday June 08, 2004 @09:56PM (#9373195) Homepage
    I thought Myth TV looked awesome. However, I discovered that it can't support digital cable. But, it's not the project's fault, or even a Linux issue. I read that there are currently no PC video capture cards on the consumer market that can support digital TV.

    Is this true? Can we ever expect a card to come out? Are cable and other companies using proprietary protocals? Encryption? Does this fall under the DMCA?

    I just can't see using a PVR that doesn't support digital cable, as most of the channels I watch or would want to record are only available on digital. This includes most of the movie channels.

    • by tjasond (680156) on Tuesday June 08, 2004 @10:05PM (#9373254)
      No that's not true. Any tv capture card can support digital cable, as long as its outputs are compatible with the tuner's inputs. The only issue I've seen in relation to a cable box is that you need to have a way to control the IR signal (usually via an IR Imitter) with one remote control. Every digital cable box that I've ever come across has had at least a coax out, if not RCA outs, which should be able to plug directly into most tuner cards. Beyond that, there should be no compatibility issues.
      • This is good news. I didn't read it correctly.

        The bad news is it appears to be true for HDTV output, but that could, and hopefully will change.

        Even this the site for this video card says it doesn't support HDTV through cable or satellite on the FAQ. Terrestial signals don't appeal to me because I haven't watched more than 10 hours of "regular" TV a year in years. What's the point of paying $90/month for digital cable if you still have to watch commercials?

        If the MPAA companies get their way, and pu

      • correction (runtime error 45 in anchor tag):

        ... Even this the site for this video card [pchdtv.com] says it ...

    • It is my understanding that you can connect a remote control device to your MythBox which then knows how to change the channels on your digital cable box. Your digital cable box of course outputs regular coax, otherwise how would your tv be able to display it?

      Not the ideal solution, but it is possible.

    • I dunno about the digital cable card... hypothetically maybe one will come out after they standardized the digital cable boxes (supposedly this summer you'll be able to buy a digital cable box at circuit city and bring it home and your cable company will "support" it's use -- unless i'm confused, which happens)

      The way you deal with this on the homebrew PVR side, is the same way my tivo deals with it. You get your tivo/pc PVR to control the digital cable box and feed the output (svideo/rf coax) to your PVR
    • Doesn't mythtv support an IR blaster so you can use an external tuner?

      Shoot they're easy to build - I made one with just a 555 chip running at 39KHz (1/3 duty cycle) off one pin of the parallel port.
    • by Viadd (173388)
      All cable companies in the US are now required to provide HDTV customers with a firewire-equipped cable box, on request. You can use this to make an HDTV PVR system from a Mac. [macosxhints.com]
    • by Riskable (19437) <YouKnowWho@YouKnowWhat.com> on Tuesday June 08, 2004 @10:39PM (#9373469) Homepage Journal
      There's currently two ways to use MythTV with digital cable... The first (and most obvious) way is to use an IRBlaster. It's a device that hooks up to your MythTV box that changes the channel on your cable box when you change the channel on MythTV. It slows things down a bit, so it isn't ideal.

      The other way is to get a cable box with a serial port (that works with MythTV). The only one I know off the top of my head is the Motorola DC2000 series. If you ask your cable company for a firewire-equipped box, they're most likely going to give you a DC2000. Also, if you get an HDTV cable box, you're most likely going to get a DC2000.

      If you have the serial port setup, digital cable changes channels fast and works like a charm. A superior solution to the IRBlaster.

      Side note: In this setup you don't even need a TV tuner card. Just some sort of video input to your PC. However, if you do want to get a TV tuner card, make sure you buy a WinTV PVR-250 or a PVR-350. They have built-in MPEG2 encoders which look absolutely beautiful and take quite a load off your CPU.
    • AFAIK, digital cable uses standard MPEG2 transport streams (just like DVB), but uses a proprietary data encryption on top of the transport streams.

      There are no digital cable tuners for PCs, but...

      It does support digital cable, by connecting the s-video and audio out of your digital cable box to your PVR-250, and connecting an infrared transmitter (lirc.org) to your PC that you place in front of the cable box, and then some software configuration.
      • No, the parent is referring to digital cable. These cards decode digital broadcast TV. They all say they require an antenna to receive digital TV. They also have a input for cable TV, but not digital cable. They're careful to say "watch digital TV or cable TV." (But not "watch digital cable TV.")
  • I was watching my daily dose of CNBC after work and they talked about Tivo and the huge drop in their stock price today. Basically it's an easily replicated idea that they big boys are into and they mentioned freevo as a free alternative. They only positive thing going for tivo is the satellite tv deals.
  • once you buy all of the equipment and get everything installed, it's way more than Tivo would be. still, I don't do Tivo cause I don't want to pay for the service, so a Linux box running as a PVR will be what I do, eventually.

    any news on this front? are the Linux PVR apps more mature featurewise than the monthy pay options?

    I *want* to build one, but time (and money) are my current obstacles.

    CBV
    • Looking at MythTV's feature list, it certainly seems to me that a Linux PVR can be more feature-rich than a commercial PVR.

      MythTV seems to have all of the standard PVR bases covered, and have a few nice little cherries on top, like a skinnable interface, and a front end for Atari, NES and SNES emulators.

      Plus there's the fact that your HTPC is an actual PC and can do, even if you aren't inclined to use it much that way. So in terms of software it's a lot more flexible. Also in terms of hardware... one

      • ... but I should add that I was on the MythTV discussion mailing list for a while, and as others have pointed out, setting up one of these things is not a walk in the park. A lot of people seem to have various problems, some of them fairly serious. This is probably inevitable when you think about all the different hardware and software configurations people are using for their HTPC. A lot of people get their HTPCs to work just dandy though. So MythTV would seem less mature if you're going to take poss
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I don't do much PVR'ing. But I am using a Hauppage PVR-250.

    It's a tuner that encodes it output into MPEG stream. Note that I am using experimental IVTV drivers, so the quality/stability is not garrenteed. But it works for me. The device file that gets used is /dev/video1 The output is mpeg2 streams, bitrates and the tuner I control by ptune-iu.pl perl gui script.

    All in all it's pretty primtive. I am to lazy to setup a real PVR program. Basicly to make a recording you can go like this:
    cat /dev/video1 >
  • by ptelligence (685287) on Tuesday June 08, 2004 @10:14PM (#9373315)
    But it's well worth it. I've got one running at home, and it is an amazing device with all free software. You'll want to drop $120 to $150 on a Hauppauge WinTV PVR card with remote and your HD will eventually top 100 gigs if it hasn't already. You're looking at about a gig per half hour that you record. What's cool about my box is that in addition to acting as a PVR, it's also an ssh and samba server and its constantly grabbing 3 or 4 bittorrents. Also it can pause and rewind live tv. I must admit though that I have spent on the order of 30 hours setting it up and just fooling around with it in general. You'll want to be familiar with Linux before you even attempt to set up one of these. If you're looking for an easier way, you may want to try KnoppMyth. It's bootable live CD that installs myth TV. It may require a little tweaking at the end, but it could save you a heck of a lot of time. Of course then you'll realize that there's nothing good on TV anyway but your geeky pride will be stroked.
  • by truffle (37924) on Tuesday June 08, 2004 @10:18PM (#9373337) Homepage
    Some points which pundits may not mention (I'm a MythTV user):
    - Dedicated PVR systems are always cheaper than building your own from parts
    - PVR systems based on old hardware will be slow. It doesn't matter if you throw a hardware encoder/decoder in your Duron 850, it will be slow. You want all the CPU and disk speed you can get. Trust me.
    - Be prepared to spend 40+ hours over the next three months setting up, configuring, debugging your system. Less if you don't care about customizing and tweaking. More if you're less experienced, and want to compile from source, or don't have popular hardware.
    - If you use your Linux box for other things, be aware the system resources mythtv demands may make it slow and chunky.
    - Setting up a MythTV box requires installing lots of stuff. The mythtv software works with LIRC (remote control drivers), iVTV (tuner drivers), and a bunch of stuff I don't remember. This isn't an install one thing and you're done project.

    I enjoy tweaking systems, but I wasn't aware of the amount of time I'd have to put into MythTV. This in no way detracts from the project - it's a great project. Just know you're getting into something that's fairly technical, and requires troubleshooting.

    For the record, PVR 350 + Athlon 1800 + 512 megs/ram on my mythtv box. Debian.
    • by Spoke (6112) on Tuesday June 08, 2004 @10:59PM (#9373602)
      PVR systems based on old hardware will be slow. It doesn't matter if you throw a hardware encoder/decoder in your Duron 850, it will be slow. You want all the CPU and disk speed you can get. Trust me.
      You must be doing something wrong if you can't get a Duron 850 running well, especially when using a hardware encoder. I'm even tempted to replace it with a Via Eden system so that it uses less power and runs quieter (no more CPU fan!)

      I've got MythTV [mythtv.org] running great on a Duron 800, 512MB of memory and a 80GB 7200RPM drive with 2MB of cache and 2 PVR250s. Not exactly state of the hard hardware, but it works very well.

      Now, if you were using software encoders, you would then need a lot of CPU power if you wanted to record multiple shows at the same time, especially if you want to record directly to MPEG4 format.

      IMO the following is most important when building a MythTV system (not sure how much applies to other Open Source PVRs):

      A decent amount of memory. 256MB is bare minimum for a combination frontend/backend system. 512MB is good.

      Lots of hard-drive space. I thought that 80GB would be plenty, but every now and then I get a number of shows queued up and fill up the drive. 160GB would be better. The drive doesn't need to be fast, even the slowest drives are fast enough to stream multiple live video streams off of them. 5400 RPM drives suffice if they are big enough. More important is to put the right filesystem where you are storing your recordings. EXT3 is a lot slower than JFS or XFS when it comes to deleting large files, it takes 3-5 seconds on my system to delete multi-gigabyte files. JFS or XFS can delete large files almost instantly.

  • I went looking for a "linux PVR distribution" this weekend and couldn't find it. Basically, I was looking for a linux distribution which could be easily installed, work out of the box with standard TV tuner/video out (and ideally, maybe even some sort of IR device) and give me the ability to watch DVDs, stream divx, listen to mp3s, etc.

    Does this exist? It should. It could really work as a sneaky way to get people interested in linux in the home.

    ~jeff
  • by altek (119814) on Tuesday June 08, 2004 @10:32PM (#9373417) Homepage
    Yes, this article is about Linux PVR's, but how do people feel that the popular ones mentioned (Freevo, MythTV) compare to Windows Media Center Edition's PVR functions?

    Don't treat this as a troll (I still expect usual M$ backlash from /.), but I'm really curious. A few things I know already about Media Center:

    1) records in proprietary format (dvr-ms?)
    2) no skipping of commercials (except of course fast-forward)
    3) doesn't require a TV-tuner, can use any vid card with video capture (S-Video, RCA, coax, etc)
    4) generally comes with a remote for all PVR functions and a IR transmitter to actually change your cable box channel
    5) supports other media-ish functions like music, pictures, etc
    6) It's Windows for chrissake

    Please add/subtract/multiply/divide from this list. Just trying to get an idea of how MS's (cruddy) product stacks up to the free competition.
    • by Riskable (19437) <YouKnowWho@YouKnowWhat.com> on Tuesday June 08, 2004 @10:55PM (#9373580) Homepage Journal
      All I can answer is in regards to MythTV:

      1) If you use a Tuner card with an MPEG encoder, it records in MPEG2. If you use a Tuner without an MPEG2 encoder, MythTV uses your CPU to record in either RTJPEG or MPEG4 (user configurable). MythTV can transcode these formats to pretty much whatever you want after the recording is done.

      2) MythTV can automatically flag commercials during recording. When it later transcodes the recording, it auto-skips these flagged areas. Works quite well, but can occasionally mess up (mostly it doesn't miss parts of your show, but might record an extraneous commercial or two). It has some newer experimental commercial skip features which I haven't tried yet. It's all user-configurable.

      3) MythTV doesn't require a tuner. You could hook your cable box up to a video input of some sort on your PC and use it with an IRBlaster or serial cable (assuming your cable box can be controlled by a serial port).

      4) If you buy a WinTV PVR card, it comes with a remote and IR interface... These work flawlessly with MythTV. However, I should note that MythTV works with LIRC... So if you get any old IR reciever working with LIRC, it'll work with MythTV. Essentially this means you can use MythTV with just about any remote you can get your hands on.

      5) MythTV supports TV, Videos (auto-metadata lookups which is sweet, checkout the screenshots page), games (MAME, SNES, NES, Linux games, very cool), weather (My favorite module), RSS Newsfeeds, DVDs (which includes a nice ripper), and some others I can't think of off the top of my head right now. There's also a MythPhone module in development that works like Netmeeting/Gnomemeeting (http://www.zen13655.zen.co.uk/mythphone.html).

      6) It's Linux, however, there's hooks and things in the code so that it might run on Windows some day. We'll see.

      MythTV RIGHT NOW is an amazing piece of software, but because it's open-source, it's rapidly developing into something much, much more. Right now it's the PVR leader and I suspect it's going to remain that way for quite some time... A very promising future.
  • Do any of these projects / products work with digital cable and/or sat? I love the DVR built into my sat (100 hours), but I have already had to delete shows I would like to have kept around a little longer. Since we have gotten into the habit of recording much of the content we watch, so we can watch it when we want to do so, I find myself running into the 100 hour limit.
  • by acm (107375) on Tuesday June 08, 2004 @11:17PM (#9373712) Homepage
    SAN JOSE, Calif., Jun 08, 2004 (AP Online via COMTEX) -- Shares of TiVo Inc. dropped more than 14 percent Tuesday after DirecTV sold its entire stake in the digital video recorder pioneer, heightening concerns that the satellite TV company would end their relationship.

    The bulk of TiVo's new subscribers last quarter came through its partnership with DirecTV, which offers TiVo service built into some of its television set-top boxes so that users can pause live TV, easily set up recordings and skip past commercials...

    AP Online [marketwatch.com]

  • by Call Me Black Cloud (616282) on Wednesday June 09, 2004 @01:02AM (#9374249)

    I've always found it odd at how the hacker community treats TiVo. There is little information or recent work on how to extract the video out of a TiVo box (except for extractstream), and don't even think about bringing it up on TiVo fan forums [tivocommunity.com]. In fact, those forums won't allow talk about removing the ads TiVo downloads into itself. I'm surprised at this. I'd think the "it's my hardware, how dare they download ads into it" mentality would win out.

    Apple releases a new DRM scheme for iTunes and people are all over it trying to break it. And Apple is pretty liberal with what you can do with purchased music.

    I just don't get what's so special about TiVo that there isn't more work being done to open the system.
    • by spectecjr (31235) on Wednesday June 09, 2004 @04:17AM (#9374934) Homepage
      I've always found it odd at how the hacker community treats TiVo. There is little information or recent work on how to extract the video out of a TiVo box (except for extractstream), and don't even think about bringing it up on TiVo fan forums. In fact, those forums won't allow talk about removing the ads TiVo downloads into itself. I'm surprised at this. I'd think the "it's my hardware, how dare they download ads into it" mentality would win out.

      The ads that TiVo downloads help support TiVo and keep them up and running.

      They're one of a very small number of companies who are extremely customer focused, and who try to do right by the people who buy their stuff all the time. This needs to be respected and rewarded.

      That, and they unofficially support hacking of their system to add capacity and features.

      The reason the boards don't allow certain topics is so as not to sour that relationship.
    • by LazyBoy (128384) on Wednesday June 09, 2004 @02:32PM (#9379883)
      There is little information or recent work on how to extract the video out of a TiVo box (except for extractstream), and don't even think about bringing it up on TiVo fan forums.
      Some forums are anti-extraction, others aren't. Check out the forums at www.dealdatabase.com
  • by msimm (580077) on Wednesday June 09, 2004 @01:56AM (#9374463) Homepage
    Just figured I'd add my reminder for Mandrake users out there, MythTV is part of the Thac's RPM archive. Urpmi setup instructions can be found here rpm.nyvalls.se [nyvalls.se]. Basically, to include the archive in your urpmi database run the following command as root:
    urpmi.addmedia thacs.rpms http://rpm.nyvalls.se/10.0/RPMS with hdlist.cz
    This should make the installation part a snap. Thats for all the nay-sayers out there complaining about the install process. But its still not for the faint of heart. :)
  • by broeman (638571) on Wednesday June 09, 2004 @03:15AM (#9374762) Journal
    I bought me a VIA EPIA M6000, because it was cheap, and only available M-series at that moment in my country (I wanted a fast delivery for the Easter holiday ;)

    Because it is not the biggest machine in town, I believe its why MythTv failed for me. Everything is fine and all, but when I bought a Hauppage PVR 250 (MPEG-capture) it was extremely choppy in MythTV. When I used mplayer or cat /dev/video0 > file, it went great, so I looked for other alternatives.

    Freevo uses mplayer for LiveTV-playback (I don't use it much, it will freeze my machine eventually, probably because of the ivtv-drivers), and with and "choppyness". Also the capture is done exactly as a good as cat, so I am happy, that I can program to record a show, but of course I would be interested in some of the nice features in MythTV on recording. The other plugins and even more are available on Freevo, and as a typical /etc user, I find the config-file much more intuitive than pressing every channel and feature in MythTVs GUI (also I don't have to install QT for once).

    You might ask, why I didn't tell that to the MythTV dev/user-community (#mythtv and #mythtv-users), but I have never seen a more unfriendly one (eventhough there are good people among them). Its double as many users there, but barely anybody talks/helps eachother. Freevo helped me through some of my stupid actions and questions pretty nicely on #freevo.
  • by burbs (225769) on Wednesday June 09, 2004 @09:31AM (#9376220)
    One thing the author didn't do was list the price of a base-model TiVo machine. For those with a limited income, forking out $199 for a graphics card may not seem as beneficial as paying $199 for an entire unit. They may even be able to scrimp with the monthly fees.

    I have a ReplayTV myself, the base $149 model. I liked the built-in network card and available 3rd party programs that allow me to stream media from my PC to the ReplayTV box, or vice-versa.

    I think it's good that this article showed up to list the alternatives. I really don't understand why TiVo is so popular, especially when you compare the features of it to ReplayTV. But I guess that they've got on hell of a marketing team.

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