Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Home PVR

A couple weeks ago I started building a Home Threater PC, here's a quick blurb on the experience:

KnoppMyth: Wasn't stable with my Plextor M402U (USB2 Divx capture device)

Fedora Core 4: Worked fine with my stand-in Athlon64 box, after about 20 hours of hacking that is, and never did get it working right with my DirecTV D10-100 satellite reciever (wouldn't change to channels under 100, even with the script). When it came time to swap the Athlon64 out for my new media-center box (Intel 945G, Celeron D, etc), FC4 would hard-lock when detecing the Intel HDA soundcard. You'd think Intel on Intel would be a sure bet, but oh well.

While trying to download Knoppix, Unbuntu, and Gentoo, my Fedora Core 4 based laptop crashed. Despite popular opinion it actually seems pretty easy to crash a Linux box if you spend much time in a GUI (KDE & Gnome also seem laggy compared to WinXP).

After all this I made the decision that Linux has a long way to go for the desktop. The shell is great, running a Lighttpd server is great, but as a workstation? Unless you've got hardware that's a couple steps behind the cutting edge, and unless you're willing to put up with some "quirks", you should probably stay away from Linux as your main workstation in my experience. Until you know all the ins and outs anyways.

WinXP: Downloaded SageTV and BeyondTV. Stuck with SageTV after a few minutes since it had much better picture quality by default. Maybe BeyondTV can be tweaked to be the equal of SageTV, I dunno, but I gave up on MythTV precisely because I was tired of tweaking. Shot off an email to SageTV support and by the end of the next day they had me an update that allowed it to change to channels below 100 on my satellite reciever controlled by a serial cable. We're pretty sure we're gonna stick with SageTV. The picture isn't quite what you might expect for a PC plugged up to a ceiling mounted projector over regular DB15 VGA cable, but it's at least the equal of our old ReplayTV, so that's good enough for now I suppose.

If you're thinking about an HTPC, and don't have a lot of Linux experience, I'd probably suggest you go with SageTV unless you're planning on running older (non VIA) hardware, with a Hauppage PVRx50 capture card, and analog cable. If that's the case you could probably be up and running with KnoppMyth in 15 minutes. If it's not, you should probably get a handle on Linux in general before you attempt a MythTV setup.

My overall impression is that there's a lot to love about Linux, and there's a great community out there supporting it, but a lot of it seems to suffer from the "gee-whiz" factor. ie: Developers creating something really cool, but loosing interest when all the fun bits are there, and leaving something that doesn't always work too well. Cream(VIM) is a perfect example. One of the best editors I've ever used, with simple touches that make all the difference like color themes in dark tones you can stare at forever and never a hint of eye-strain. It also looses syntax highlighting for seemingly no reason sometimes though, or crashes, or fails to load without a graceful error, etc...

I realize that's not completely fair, as considering how many packages are involved in your average setup, it's only a small fraction that suffer any instability. Just the same, they spoil the party.

It really seems a shame that it seems the vast majority of Linux and the apps that run on it are written in C++. You'd think Java would be a much bigger player in the Linux world. It'd certainly result in simpler, more stable code I'd imagine.

Oh well, this post isn't a knock on Linux. Linux is great. Just a knock on Linux as an HTPC on new hardware, or hardware outside of the 90% adoption realm.

WinXP + SageTV is where it's at for HTPC in my opinion. Atleast currently.
so sagetv is really that much better compared to beyondtv?

I havent looked at sagetv that much, but have been looking at beyondtv quite a bit. I like what i see in the features so far.

I also tried a knoppmyth installation but had problems with getting 2 tuners to work right. and I couldn't get a remote set up and working properly. I am not that familiar with linux at all, but I was tired of tweaking. The only tweak I got to work right was getting the TV Out on the video card to work. lol.

Now I am selling my PVR 350 and going for a PVR. But I really dont know if I should stick with mythtv or go with a windows alternative.

I think mythtv would be fine if I could get a remote to work right. The only easy solution I have seen is getting a wireless keyboard and a learning remote from and just use that. But that is kind of expensive.
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