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Entertainment Software Linux Hardware

Build Your Own Linux Home Theater PC 250

Posted by Zonk
from the we-have-the-technology dept.
Vic writes "If you have ever dreamed of building a home theatre PC, Extremetech has details on building a Linux-based system, and covers all the details of this epic journey. They did get the unit to run lots of features such as CDs, video, TV, weather, media libraries, guide viewing and show recording." From the article: "To paraphrase one forum quote seen during the research phase of this piece: 'Buy the beer first, this ain't gonna be easy.' But there is some good news here too. Getting a Linux-based HTPC has probably never been easier, though that is admittedly damning with faint praise. So here then is the tale of our ongoing adventure toward building a Linux-based HTPC."
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Build Your Own Linux Home Theater PC

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 13, 2005 @02:51PM (#12522578)
    "but the beer first, this isn't going to easy"
  • Wait, I thought that when it came to the GPL and FOSS that beer was supposed to be free. Where'd I go wrong?
    • Where'd I go wrong?
      In between the sixth and second characters of the second line of your sig.
      You've really got to read that source code a little more closely, and compile with -WTF next time.
      • Unfortunately my WTF compiler burned itself into a tiny piece of blackened cinder after I accidently ran a Maureen O'Gara article through it. By the time it was cool enough to the touch some very serious guys in seriously cheap suits came and took it from me. They said that while they had the caption, the rack, and the bread, they needed something else as well.

        It wasn't until they had left that I realized my stereo was missing.

    • Haven't you heard? Its 'free' as in 'I need a beer'.
    • If you want free as in speech & FREE as in beer (some people use capitalization to differentiate), then you'll just have to wait for the heretical nanotechnology which makes that possible.

      You just need four things:

      1. Energy to make the beer: from FREE solar from arrays you self-assembled from free plans.
      2. Matter which composes the object, which in this case is almost entirely recycled H2O along with the component molecules that make up the other minor ingredients (like hops); freely available in your
  • by pejo (733415) on Friday May 13, 2005 @02:53PM (#12522601)
    all that and more...

    at a fraction of the price.
  • This looks good (Score:5, Informative)

    by jonbusby (880488) on Friday May 13, 2005 @02:53PM (#12522602) Homepage
    I've been running media centre pc 2005 on our plasma screen for a while now... and although its good at tv, its complete rubbish when it comes to web interfaces, remote control and most of all the music library! It can take over 5 minutes to load, and there no option to organise on directories instead of media tags!
  • Sure, but... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Heliologue (883808) on Friday May 13, 2005 @02:53PM (#12522608)
    Whoa...
    • Store music, home movies, recorded TV shows, digital photos
    • Play back all these media seamlessly
    • Support a wide variety of audio and video codecs
    • Play back DVD movies, and look as good as or better than a DVD player
    • Support the playback of DRM-encoded purchased/rented movies and music
    • Serve this media up to other client machines on the home network
    • Have a simple GUI that any family member can use
    • Be rock-solid stable 24/7
    • Go in and out of sleep states with no difficulty
    • Run quietly enough so that its fan noise doesn't interfere with the enjoyment of the content it's serving up
    • Be able to handle HD music and movie formats, both present and future, with minimal upgrades (okay, maybe we're reaching a bit on this one)
    Am I the only one who thinks that this is a stretch for any OS? Getting past DRM and proprietary formats is even a pain in the ass on Windows.
    • I see all these home built Mediacenters, but truthfully, how many average people use these for more than one week. I can see this being a novelty, but do people actually use these for longer than one month?

      I can see the use of a TiVo being sustained, but are these homebuilt products mature enough that my mom can use this? (Mom is not very tech friendly)

      If I'm going to plop down over a grand for this little thing, (i don't have the spare computers) will i use it?
      • Re:Sure, but... (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Mr Guy (547690) on Friday May 13, 2005 @03:08PM (#12522770) Journal
        Dear god yes. And you will refuse to watch live TV ever again.

        These devices change how you watch TV entirely. I only watch the shows I like, even shows I kinda like, and I watch them whenever I feel like it. I used to never watch TV because I get bored with the shows easily. Now I watch TV and fast forward through the parts that are boring. (Hint: If you watch ST:TNG you can get all the show in 30 minutes if you skip any scene involving Deanna Troi talking about people's feelings).

        I've used mine for about a year now and it's completely ingrained. While visiting my inlaws, the reflex to delete a show after it's over resulted in me turning on their DVD player several times without thinking about it.
      • Re:Sure, but... (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Golias (176380)
        I see all these home built Mediacenters, but truthfully, how many average people use these for more than one week. I can see this being a novelty, but do people actually use these for longer than one month?

        Step 1: Hook up a current Mac to the HDMI or DVI input of your TV.

        Step 2: Hook up the EyeTV 500 from Elgato to your Mac via Firewire.

        Step 3: There's no step three.

        I've been using this set up for my media center for a couple months now, enjoying HDTV with PVR features, DVDs (mostly archived on my ha
        • I've been eyeing a mac-mini for just such a purpose. Do you use Macintosh stuff, or Linux stuff on your mac to accomplish all that?

          -Jesse
          • Re:Sure, but... (Score:3, Informative)

            by Golias (176380)
            OS X, but not Tiger yet because M-Audio does not have working drivers for the Sonica with 10.4 yet, and if I can't have DTS audio, there's no point in going on with life. :)

            Word of warning if you are going to use the mini:

            The EyeTV software somehow manages to record and display HDTV signals okay on the mini, but HDTV playback via any other means (Quicktime, VLC, etc.) is damn near impossible, due to the relatively low CPU and GPU power of the mini.

            So, if you are mainly watching DVD's and using the EyeTV
      • For "media center" use, the MythTV is going to be more robust for the simple reason that it need not depend on a wifi network connection. You can dump all of your data to it and be done with it.

        Plus, the rate of change with the commercial boxes is glacial. Sooner or later, the Gratisware competition WILL match Tivo in any respect.

        A jukebox that contains your most used DVD's and ALL of your music, plus does the VCR thing would be very handy to most people.
      • by eno2001 (527078) on Friday May 13, 2005 @04:54PM (#12524046) Homepage Journal
        It's not a media center, it's just a computer with some added software to try and simplify things. The problem is that in many cases the simplification leads to an interface that is foreign to the user. It's somewhere halfway between a VCR or DVD player menu system and a GUI. Not good.

        Considering how many people these days are VERY familiar with the W.I.M.P. (Windows, Icons, Menus, Pointer) paradigm, there is no need to disguise what these boxes really are unless you are trying to create a very limited use appliance like a Tivo or iPod.

        With that in mind, my home theater PC is just a Celeron (P4 family) running Fedora Core 3, Xine (which does nearly everything) and a Hauppaugue PVR250 card (which is perfect for this sort of thing). I wrote some scripts and created some icons to match and my wife finds this WAYYYY easier than the VCR menus system, the Windows ME based system we had before and you know why? She looked at it and said, "Oh, it works like a computer. This is easy'. I've been running like this since about February. It's perfect. Click on one icon and the system becomes a "TV". Hit "Q" (thanks to Xine's extensive kb shortcuts) and you're back to the desktop. Watch a DVD? Just pop it in the drive and Fedora's MagicDev application will launch my "playdvd" script which automatically starts a fullscreen Xine session and starts playing the DVD with full menu navigation support, etc...

        Schedule a recording? Just click the scheduler icon and thanks to the magic of Gnome 2.x's Zenity add on, I have a series of nice GUI based dialog boxes that allow me to select the date and time of the recording as well as program name and recording length. It sticks all the info in cron and the show is scheduled. Pause live TV? Just click the "pausetv" icon on the button dock and Xine launches while I have a 'cat /dev/video > /mnt/video1/Pause.mpg' process running in the background. After a slight delay, Xine just starts playing the Pause.mpg file as it's being recorded. I can pause the program at any time and pick up where I left of or go back. When I exit Xine, I'm even asked if I want to rename Pause.mpg to save it for later. And ALL of the playback functions whether it's from the capture card, MPG, AVI or WMV files or a DVD can be stopped using the kb shortcuts. "Q" always gets you out of trouble by quitting Xine no matter what. Music playback and Photos are all handled by the software that comes with Fedora.

        My wife loves the new system since she feels it's the easiest I've ever set up. The real key is to put down the pretenses that this box is anything more than a computer. For my next trick, I'll be completely eliminating any TV or stereo gear from this setup. The TV gets replaced by a much higher quality display LCD computer monitor. The Yamaha 5.1 amp is getting replaced with an amp of my own design that will just be an amp leaving all the preamp features to Gnome's Mixer applet. Can't get any easier than that...
    • Re:Sure, but... (Score:5, Informative)

      by Mr Guy (547690) on Friday May 13, 2005 @03:03PM (#12522723) Journal
      No, but some of that is a hardware requirement.

      Everytime a story like this comes out, the MythTV faithful sprout up, but it's hard not and a list of requirements like that shows why:

      MythTv already does:

      # Store music, home movies, recorded TV shows, digital photos
      # Play back all these media seamlessly
      # Support a wide variety of audio and video codecs
      # Play back DVD movies, and look as good as or better than a DVD player
      # Have a simple GUI that any family member can use
      # Serve this media up to other client machines on the home network
      # Be able to handle HD music and movie formats, both present and future, with minimal upgrades (okay, maybe we're reaching a bit on this one)

      This one is hardware dependent for any OS:
      # Run quietly enough so that its fan noise doesn't interfere with the enjoyment of the content it's serving up

      I have no experience with this one:

      # Go in and out of sleep states with no difficulty

      Which only leaves these two:

      # Be rock-solid stable 24/7

      Frankly speaking, MythTV isn't TiVO, and your mileage may vary. My current uptime is 18 days on my mythtv box. For my wife, a MythTV crash (frontend or backend, she can't tell) results in a computer reboot to bring it back up for her because she's willing to hit the power button but not willing to learn to restart it.

      # Support the playback of DRM-encoded purchased/rented movies and music

      For any copy protection there is a way to beat it, but what you need is specific to the system. For things like DVDs and Apple's Fairplay the solutions are known and common. For things like downloaded movie rentals, I don't know of any cracks for them, so this could conceivably be an issue.
      • Frankly speaking, MythTV isn't TiVO, and your mileage may vary. My current uptime is 18 days on my mythtv box. For my wife, a MythTV crash (frontend or backend, she can't tell) results in a computer reboot to bring it back up for her because she's willing to hit the power button but not willing to learn to restart it.

        Not that it matters much, but your could trap something in /etc/inittab to restart mythtv...

        Of course, you probably don't really care, and I doubt your wife does either. Still, if you want f
      • # Be rock-solid stable 24/

        I've had my ReplayTV crash on occassion (usually due to weirdness with one of the switches on my home network), so even off the shelf consumer PVRs aren't immune to downtime. Even without crashing, my ReplayTVs have to reboot every couple of days for software upgrades, etc., so I wouldn't be too concerned about maintaining perfect uptime. Just make sure your box doesn't go down while you're recording something or watching TV, and that should be about as much reliability as you
      • Frankly speaking, MythTV isn't TiVO, and your mileage may vary. My current uptime is 18 days on my mythtv box. For my wife, a MythTV crash (frontend or backend, she can't tell) results in a computer reboot to bring it back up for her because she's willing to hit the power button but not willing to learn to restart it.

        I take care of frontend crashes by having a X session that simply runs MythFrontEnd and nothing else. If MythFrontEnd exits for any reason the X session terminates and X brings up the lo

    • Re:Sure, but... (Score:2, Informative)

      by ouzel (655571)
      Not a stretch at all. My MythTV box does all of this, except for the last (HD) bullet - only because I don't have an HD card.

      My wife and kid use it all the time, with no difficulty. All of our home videos and digital pix are mounted via NFS and we watch them through MythTV. Ditto with our mp3s - thousands of songs on random getting played through the stereo via Myth.

      It's one of the best things I've ever built. Check out Jarod's guide [wilsonet.com] for building a FC3-based MythTV system. The guide is helpful ev
      • I have HD set up on mine. The only issue is that the HD tuner cards only go up through channels 125. I have to use my external tuner from Comcast to get to the 126-999 channels. It does have the nifty IR remote support I've been thinking of adding so it can beam the signal to switch channels straight to the receiver. I love my MythTV setup and use it every day.
    • Not really.

      My Windows MCE 2005 box seems to do all of those nicely. It plays back all my MPEG, DivX, OGG, files (and anything with a codec) without any issues.

      The recorded TV is stored in a semi-proprietary format, which is nothing other than MPEG with some ASF framing and additional metadata, which can be stripped into a plain MPEG or converted to any other video standard.

      I'm not forced to use only DRMed content with it.
    • None of this "ease of installation" applies when you are dealing with HDTV cards. You need to a a linux whiz just to set them up.
    • Am I the only one who thinks that this is a stretch for any OS? Getting past DRM and proprietary formats is even a pain in the ass on Windows.

      Laugh all you want, but I recently bought a new PC that came bundled with Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005. It is far (I said far) from perfect, but it pretty much does everything on the list.

      • Store music, movies, TV, photos? Check.
      • Play back all these media seamlessly? Sort of. For some reason MCE treats music and video differently, which is strange since
    • Even getting non-DRM open formats is a pain on Windows and OSX. These should be included in the default install, no?
  • No HDTV? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Fulg (138866) on Friday May 13, 2005 @02:53PM (#12522609) Homepage
    This is all well and good, but until someone manages to get an HDTV-ready HTPC, it's not worth it. Get a HD-ready PVR from your local cable/satellite company, combine with Xbox Media Center, and you're all set :)

    Wasn't there an article about HTPCs a few weeks back (though it didn't specifically focus on Linux)?
    • I wouldn't mind trying this. Except like all instructions, it's not detailed enough. To realistically build one, most people will need the instruction down to every single command to be dummy proof.

    • Re:No HDTV? (Score:5, Informative)

      by TheFlyingGoat (161967) on Friday May 13, 2005 @03:09PM (#12522783) Homepage Journal
      I have mod points, but I'll respond since I have a HDTV HTPC setup. It's pretty simple actually... it runs Meedio and uses the ATI dongle to output to my TV. I have a HDTV OTA capture card that I schedule programs in. Meedio imports recorded shows and I can watch them whenever I want.

      I don't, however, have the capability to do time-shifting. That's something I'll get once Meedio is done with their MeedioTV product. Also, I'll be looking into the cable card thing at some point, since I'd prefer to record from my cable service.

      The whole thing is more of a project than a product. It's something that I enjoy playing around with and it relaxes me. Anyone who just wants something that works should do exactly as you said and rent/purchase one.
    • MythTV with a PCHDTV card'll do you just fine.
    • People are using MythTV to record HDTV. A number of ATSC capture cards are compatible with MythTV. (But not all capture cards; a notable exception is the ATi. Do research before purchasing.)

      The only problem is that you can only record OTA broadcast HDTV, or unencrypted cable HDTV if the cable company complies with proper QAM modulation and your capture card tunes QAM. You cannot record from DirecTV, Dish, or encrypted cable. The receivers for DirecTV, Dish, and encrypted cable are closed boxes, and it woul
    • I've been wanting to know this for some time...

      Do any of these software products have a way of dealing with a DirecTV tuner? I know there's no tuner card per se, but what about using an IR eye, and acting as a remote control to change channels at set times...is this possible using Myth or Freevo?

      What about listings? I have OTA HD already, and I also have HD DirecTV channels. Would be nice to just output DVI or Component to the machine, and let the machine do the heavy lifting.
  • No HDTV ? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by mybecq (131456) on Friday May 13, 2005 @02:55PM (#12522627)
    I find it interesting that very few of these articles attempt to cover HDTV or digital TV. There is more than one DTV card supported in Linux and an article containing this would prove much more valuable that just the "here's how to setup a box with a PVR-250/350" story that I seem to see everywhere.

    Where's the cutting edge stuff!?! :)
    • Re:No HDTV ? (Score:2, Interesting)

      by enrico_suave (179651)
      "I find it interesting that very few of these articles attempt to cover HDTV or digital TV. There is more than one DTV card supported in Linux and an article containing this would prove much more valuable that just the "here's how to setup a box with a PVR-250/350" story that I seem to see everywhere."

      Even though it's HDTV, the DTV cards aren't that sexy because they involved using rabbit ears and getting broadcast HDTV only. (so no DiscoveryHD or HBO HD)... it's dissapointing (unless you live in an area
      • This is perhaps a nit-pick, but you don't use rabbit ears for over-the-air HDTV.

        Digial broadcasts are on the UHS band. Rabbit ears are for VHS reception.

        For my Mac-based HDTV PVR, I use a YAGI roof antenna.

        I have no interest in paying monthly fees of any kind just for television.
        • >Rabbit ears are for VHS reception.

          So if I get some, do I just hang the tape from one, or do I do I still need a VCR?

          :)

          hawk

    • Re:No HDTV ? (Score:4, Informative)

      by mjh (57755) <mark.hornclan@com> on Friday May 13, 2005 @03:11PM (#12522805) Homepage Journal
      Where's the cutting edge stuff!?! :)

      Right [eff.org] here [seltzer.org].

  • On a slightly related (yet ironically slightly offtopic) note, does anyone know of a decent listing of capture hardware that runs under linux? The Video For Linux pages have a supported hardware list, but this primarily concentrates on supported chipsets, not end user devices. Obviously, it can be difficult to infer the latter from the former.

    I ask because I have projects in the works that depends on working video capture drivers, and I'd like to be able to distribute (or distribute a pointer to) a list of

  • xbox (Score:5, Interesting)

    by blackmonday (607916) on Friday May 13, 2005 @02:57PM (#12522657) Homepage
    Just get a modded xbox. It's very easy to use and no headaches. I had it modded and the dude pre-loaded xbox media player. Plays pretty much anything. With the newer xbox 360 coming out, expect older xboxes to take a price dive around the holidays.

    • The problem with the XBox is the vast majority of the optical drives that come with them are incapable of reading burned CDs, or in some cases even audio CDs. Even if you get the drive that's supposed to be the most compatible, the Samsung, it still may not be able to read them (like mine).

      The XBox isn't a great solution because the drives suck. A good solution, yes, but not a great one.
    • does the xbox speak dvi, natively?

      (I don't own one)

      any decent home theatre setup today should have digital video. either via firewire or dvi or that new pinout that is equiv to dvi (can't think of the name but its fairly recent).

      or, am I the only one who wants to separate, as far as physically possible, the spinning drives and fan noises from the video display/speakers/viewing area?

      long cable lengths with analog _anything_ (audio or video) is a no-no. I'm hoping that that new dvi thing will be a good
      • The High Definition AV pack gives you component 480i / 480p (if the game supports it). That's good enough for DVDs and Xvid and the like. For HDTV you're gonna need something else. My xbox is very quiet and diesn't bother me at all.

        • My xbox is very quiet and diesn't bother me at all.


          how do you serve content? from remote (ethernet) drives or via local storage?

          for any decent sized movie collection, you're gonna need A LOT of drives. even at today's 400gb/unit density.

          I'm saying - you need to consider the concept of 'remoting the display'. it just makes too much sense. then you can go wild with fans and drives and whatnot. just in a 'server room', which could be a spare bedroom or basement or closet. just NOT in the quiet viewi
    • With the newer xbox 360 coming out, expect older xboxes to take a price dive around the holidays.

      Yep. I'm expecting to spend $60 or $70 on a used Xbox in early 2006, and with GentooX and MythTV on it my digital playback needs will be covered.

      That being said, though, the Xbox is only suitable as a home theater frontend. It has no Video In or MPEG encoder, so for PVR-like functionality you'll still need a separate backend server in the other room, or at least a reliable source for TV torrents.
  • by Mr. Cancelled (572486) on Friday May 13, 2005 @02:58PM (#12522663)
    We've been down this PVR road many times here on /., and I don't know that this article's really adding anything that hasn't been said multiple times in other articles, but it's worth repeating that if you're going to build a Linux-based PVR system, do not plan being bale to use your ATI AIW card.

    It just ain't going to cut it under Linux (blame about why this is goes back and forth, but the end result is that it just won't work). Instead, plan on investing in a Hauppage card. The 350 [pcalchemy.com] is a good place to start.
    • unfortunately you need to say away from ATI video cards too. I had to find a geforce4 440MX for my test-system because my ati 9700pro just wasnt going to work well enough.

      also the Hauppage card is a good beginner card as it has lots of documentation, however plextor has a better device http://www.plextor.com/english/products/TV402U.htm [plextor.com]
      that "Hardware Encode to DivX, MPEG-4, MPEG-2/DVD and MPEG-1/VCD" as well as a "better" tuner.

      there are linux drivers and mythtv supports it, but not many ppl have gotten
    • by leoc (4746)
      You should also try a Plextor M402U or TV402U. It's a hardware MPEG encoder with fully open sourced drivers for Linux.
  • by erroneus (253617) on Friday May 13, 2005 @02:58PM (#12522672) Homepage
    The first paragraph of the article states:

    Linux is one of the most remarkable phenomena in the recent history of personal computing. In some ways, it's similar to the original homebrew PC movement of the late 1970s and early 80s. Equal parts cool kids club and grass roots revolution, Linux in its many different forms has proven itself a force to be reckoned with. A highly configurable OS that can both scale up to big enterprise iron and down to handheld devices, Linux can do almost anything. It even powers the most well-known PVR on the planet, TiVo.

    I think there is something bigger here that merely Linux which is, after all, just a kernel of the OS. The kernel as well as the rest of the significant components are driven to development by the will of the community that finds interest in their own ends. They don't do this to win a popularity contest. They don't do it in order to bring anyone down. Mostly, they are doing it "because they want to." (And the only way to stop that is to take away their freedoms)

    I think the project is cool and I will, one of these days, take it upon myself when I have the beer and other money to throw at it. But there is opportunity here for the entrepreneur!

    The fact is, only a tiny portion of the public will do this for themselves... the rest of us will want to BUY it...
  • by machinegunhand (867735) on Friday May 13, 2005 @02:58PM (#12522673) Homepage
    ...just wait until you try finding something decent to watch.
  • Media Portal looks real good, its windows based but seriously mythTV just seems to be a little stagnant compared to the work being done in other PVR software programs.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 13, 2005 @03:00PM (#12522699)
    I am a happy Mythtv user.

    I watch TV much anymore, but I wanted to muck around with it, so I bought a WinPVR-250 card.

    I stuck it in my file server, and watch it on my desktop. Both are running Debian, of course.

    For debian/ubuntu users check out this line:
    #Mythtv
    deb http://dijkstra.csh.rit.edu/~mdz/debian [rit.edu] unstable mythtv

    I am sure you know what it is for.. (minus the /. add-on bracketry)

    The only tricky part was that the guide was off by one hour (found a quick-n-easy SQL one-liner on the internet to fix that) and setting up MySQL so that it would accept remote connections (this is disabled in Debian by default).

    I found out that it will happily run in a window and is fairly desktop friendly, which I didn't know they had it setup to do. My desktop resolution is 2 monitors at 1280x1024 and I run mythtv at 800x600. Nice picture and a pleasent distraction while mucking around with work or whatnot.

    Also nice for when you want to watch TV with your laptop.

    If I had a second chance at a card (bought it a while ago) I'd get one of those plexor's that use the go7007 drivers.

    Plexor GPL'd the drivers themselves and they look nice. Much more capable then the WinPVR stuff.. Can encode in mpeg4 (divx-style) as well as mpeg2 and others, were the WinPVR can only do mpeg2.

    I may actually buy one still.

    One tip: when you find a show you want to watch, hit the 'r' button to start recording it. I find that when I let it pause for a couple hours and I come back to finish watching the show to many times I accidently change the channel and loose my buffer.

  • What will Microsoft's reaction to this development be this time round? As a slashdotter and an upcoming pundit in the Computer Operating Systems' world, I am very interested. Is there an active community being built to improve this product? Hope so. Have a good weekend guys.
  • by Drunken_Jackass (325938) on Friday May 13, 2005 @03:02PM (#12522711) Homepage
    I started a project like this last fall, but abandoned it after i determined that it wouldn't pass the most important test of all. If my wife wouldn't be able to use it, it was worthless.

    Not like she's a retarded spider monkey or anything - she's a graphic designer and uses OS X (left myself wide open for that one, i know) but if she's got to use three different remotes and a keyboard, there's no way in hell she's going to use the damn thing. I don't need her calling me at work to walk her through how to watch a DVD or listen to music.

    Plus, if it's really easy and slick, then she'll be a lot more accepting of the equipment purchases that i tell her about.
  • by cloudscout (104011) on Friday May 13, 2005 @03:05PM (#12522750) Homepage
    When are we going to see a Linux distribution specifically geared toward home theater PCs?

    Sure, I probably should research this before posting, but if I did that, I wouldn't be a proper Slashdot reader, would I?
  • been there (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    After fooling around with Linux and the VDR (HD recording software for TV) since 2000 and trying PCs for home theater, I quit all this. Too much hassle, 90% fiddling aroung and less than 10% real usage.

    Now I got a MacMini here. Its small, quiet, comes with a good pre installed OS.

    30$ for a remote control (BlueTooth -> SallingClicker)
    and Im ready.

    serves video, TV, audio, Internet (without virus probs) whatever.
    Runs with or without a TV attached (use your mobile phone as a status display)

    And most of al
  • by rAiNsT0rm (877553) on Friday May 13, 2005 @03:11PM (#12522812) Homepage
    This really was poor, a couple Linux N00b's try to get a HTPC together based on an almost automatic install of KnoppMyth and still can't do it due to lack of knowledge of Linux and fear of illegality to play DVD's.

    Basically it is as simple as selecting the supported hardware, pop in the CD and go... these guys get tripped up tring to get a SUPPORTED remote to work and don't even know how to add two commands to the window manager so they don't have to go to the CLI to run Gedit!!! Morons.

    This article did nothing, it didn't educate, it didn't enlighten, and it actually just spread more FUD about Windows MCE being better and easier. Thanks /. for helping promote Linux by posting "news" articles written by total n00b's with no idea of what they are doing as this is even their admitted numerous attempt to do this.
    • it actually just spread more FUD about Windows MCE being better and easier.

      Is it really FUD if it's the truth?

      For "n00bs" at least, XP Media Center Edition really IS better and easier than trying to roll your own Linux PVR.

      And remember, MOST CONSUMERS are "n00bs". They can't all be L33T SUPAR USARS LIEK YUO!!!
    • Yeah, what morons! All they want to do is set up a computer to watch TV, and they haven't mastered bash! Cmon, next you're gonna tell me they haven't mastered VI either!

      Cmon, if we expect regular people to use Linux, condescending attitudes towards editing archaic text files won't cut it. I hope newbs go out and buy a copy of Windows and install Media Portal, just to spite your kind.

  • by jfb3 (25523) on Friday May 13, 2005 @03:14PM (#12522859)
    Don't they know that the difference between "Wouldn't it be cool if..." and a Darwin award is a couple of six-packs.
  • downloading movies (Score:3, Interesting)

    by The Pim (140414) on Friday May 13, 2005 @03:16PM (#12522873)
    One piece that seems to be missing is the ability to download movies from the various (legal) on-line movie rental sites (eg movielink.com). Most of them won't even let you into the site without IE. I haven't tried faking it out, because I'm afraid there will be further obstacles (for example, movielink.com requires me to install a Windows application before downloading). Are there any sites that can be made to work on a free system? And then there's the problem of playing the downloaded movies. I thought that this would be possible, but even with mplayer and the w32codecs, I had trouble with the WMV9 file from movielink.com. :-(

    Downloading movies (yes, I mean mainstream movies with restricted licenses, not the few that are free) would be one of the killer apps for a Linux HTPC, but it seems there is no way to do it, even if I am willing to pay.

  • I'm in! (Score:3, Funny)

    by PenguinBoyDave (806137) <david@davidmeyer.LIONorg minus cat> on Friday May 13, 2005 @03:17PM (#12522885)
    FINALLY...I have been waiting for something like this. I'm too cheap to buy all the things you used to need. But I have a bunch of computers I can use.
  • by cavemanf16 (303184) on Friday May 13, 2005 @03:23PM (#12522944) Homepage Journal
    As several other /.'ers have already mentioned, the main issue with building a Linux-based PVR/DVR/HTPC/whatever you want to call it - is: "the wife factor." In other words, the system MUST operate like most other consumer electronics - you turn it on and it *just works*. Maybe it's not 100% flawless, but it better be pretty damn close.

    For this reason, I had settled on a Windows XP install with a Hauppauge PVR-250 a while back on my old computer. The main problems I have had to date with it:
    1. The EPG guide from Zap2It is all messed up. It doesn't update each week at 3am like it's supposed to do, and the channels are flung all over the place and not in any apparent order.
    2. The hardware is too slow for GB-PVR. This software is pretty cool and works well enough, except on outdated hardware like mine. The menus are extraordinarily sluggish, sometimes with pauses of a couple minutes while the system "gets back up to speed" after sitting dormant for a while. (And this is a software issue, definitely not the hardware coming out of "sleep" mode or anything like that.)

    Admittedly, I need some new hardware. When I do get around to installing a faster motherboard, proc, and memory I am going to install Linux anyways. Unfortunately, I have a feeling that the Linux solutions out there are still too much in their infancy to pass "the wife factor" right now. My wife can't use the current system because it's too sluggish and doesn't *just work* 100% of the time. (It doesn't work at all if I don't manually update the channel listings once a week which can take 20-30 minutes!)

    My main point is: if you plan on building a Linux-based HTPC make sure that you have some pretty decent spare parts laying around, because if you don't it's probably just a lot more worth your time and money to go buy a top-of-the-line Tivo right now.
  • All you need is a Tivo Series2 with JavaHMO [sourceforge.net].
    • ...then you loose the media center features as soon as the load on your JavaHMO server gets to high or the wifi network gets overutilized. Not that wifi is that robust to begin with. ...been there, did that. Still want to build a Myth. ...when Tivo Corp finally realizes that it's a good idea to cache all that nifty media content. Then talk.
  • Use Cases (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Doc Ruby (173196) on Friday May 13, 2005 @03:38PM (#12523110) Homepage Journal
    The hard parts of this project are mainly the packaging of all the software components, the identification of compatible (and tolerably performing) hardware, and configuration of each with the other. The more people who publish their successful paths/configs, and others who edit that research result into HW lists and .deb/RPM packages, the less beer we'll have to drink while struggling through it ourselves. And the more beer we'll have to drink while kicking back to watch the movies when it works. So try to drink only as much beer as lets you report your results.
  • crap. (Score:4, Funny)

    by sootman (158191) on Friday May 13, 2005 @03:41PM (#12523152) Homepage Journal
    no way will I have this done in time to record the Enterprise finale tonight.
  • by slashdot.org (321932) on Friday May 13, 2005 @03:45PM (#12523218) Homepage Journal
    So they spent enormous amounts of time to build a HTPC, and what's in the list of things that don't work: CSS encrypted DVDs. Which is like every single one.

    DRM is killing me. I'd love to run something non-Microsoft, but I personally do not want to sacrifice quality. I want to be able to play the highest quality that's available.

    This means WMV9-HD @ 1080p for video and DVD-Audio for audio. (okay, I'm sure some of you will want to debate this, go ahead. Anyone that I show WMV9-HD to is simply blown away.)

    One of the most unfortunate things is that you can not run WMV9-HD without using Microsoft binaries. In theory this is something that can be solved, because if I understand it correctly, WMV9 is standardized and it should be able to implement a decoder from the specs.

    BUT, the standard most certainly does NOT cover the added DRM layer that a lot of WMV9-HD content has. And Microsoft has no intention to solve that problem. What we need is a DeCSS variant to remove the DRM from WMV9.

    I'm unaware of any DVD-Audio playback capabilities under Linux, but again, this is certainly something that's technically possible. Except for, you guessed it, DRM. At the moment there's only one combination available if you want to play DVD-Audio discs that are 'encrypted'; SoundBlaster Audigy (not the lowest end one) and Windows.

    For this one, I'm working on a solution (hardware based). The problematic thing is that the encryption scheme allows for key revokation. I think this is specifically designed as a counter act to the Xing key discovery. If they find that we discover the SoundBlaster key (or maybe find some other way to use the SoundBlaster to get the unencrypted data), then they can revoke it, making new content unplayable on the SoundBlaster. This may sound as very hard to believe (it does to me), and I may be wrong. But I don't see how else it would work.
    • So they spent enormous amounts of time to build a HTPC, and what's in the list of things that don't work: CSS encrypted DVDs. Which is like every single one.

      OK, well we know this is trivial to overcome. They say as much in the article.

      I want to be able to play the highest quality that's available. This means WMV9-HD @ 1080p for video and DVD-Audio for audio.

      I was unaware that HDTV was being broadcast in WMV format. Point me to all those movies available in 1080p and I might start to agree with y

  • www.byopvr.com (Score:4, Informative)

    by RedR (880377) on Friday May 13, 2005 @03:56PM (#12523342)
    Check out byopvr.com yall. Tis a great site on building your own PVR with a good community to help you in selecting hardware, software, and getting it all working together. Check em out, I think you'll find the folks there are great and awesome info as well.
  • A better guide (Score:4, Informative)

    by AngryPuppy (595294) on Friday May 13, 2005 @04:10PM (#12523512) Journal

    If anyone is interested in a much better guide (under Fedora):

    Jarod Wilson's Fedora Myth(TV)ology [wilsonet.com]

    He does a nice job of keeping this guide up to date and complete. Some people may not like the RPM he uses (Axel Thimm custom packages) but they've worked nicely for me.

    Terry

  • But then, my mom washed it, and it exploded.
  • by Meumeu (848638)
    An ASP web page explaining how to have a Microsoft free home...
  • Sounds like one of the few legitimate use cases for a specialized distro left. $DEITY knows we have enough of them already, but a dedicated HTPC distro that Did Not Suck® would be interesting.
  • I know last year I could buy an enlight atx desktop for about $50 or so. I complained that was a touch spendy for a beige in contrast to all the midtowers priced at $20 or so. But now the phrase "home theater PC" has been coined... the old style desktop case is now a "media center". Now you're lucky to find the desktop style for under $65.

    But all is not lost. The old Gateway Destination [gateway.com] PCs are starting to hit the used market for under $75 or so. The last one I looked at could take a standard 6 slot

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