2 minute read

With apologies to Robert Aspirin. 🙂

Our VCRs haven’t gone missing but they have been replaced with a digital video recorder (DVR — also known as a personal video recorder or PVR). As with most things in geekdom, I wasn’t satisfied with buying one off the shelf (e.g. Tivo or ReplayTV). Instead, I built my own. Essentially, that’s assembling a mostly standard computer and adding at least one TV tuner/capture card and software to perform the DVR tasks.

I selected MythTV as the DVR software to use. It’s Linux based and appears to be the most mature and full-featured of the open source projects currently available. In particular, I used the KnoppMyth distribution, a single disc version that takes all of the fun (translation: a lot of the headache) out of the installation by automating most of the install tasks.

The device has been running for the last couple of weeks and I’m happy with it. Jill really likes it (after first experiencing a Tivo while at Chris’ place, her response was, “If you’re such a geek, why don’t we have one?!?” Always playing to my ego…works every time…almost). Most of the use falls into the traditional realm of Tivo-like devices: setting up recording schedules of all our favorite shows, being able to pause live TV and the like.

I’m playing around with the ability to serve my music collection through it as well. I only have a partial copy transferred but it does an adequate job. The selection functions are very basic. To get the most out of this feature, I will need to build a set of playlists to use. Managing those may be more effort than I’m willing to expend. We’ll see.

There are also weather and news feed modules that work out of the box. Weather provides a quick summary and the current radar. The news module is not easy to read from across the room. I may be able to adjust the font size on those screens but haven’t dug around enough to know yet.

Still need to take a closer look at the DVD player, video management and games module.

Stability of the device has been reasonable. The system has locked occasionally. I haven’t tracked this down but seems to happen when buttons are pushed in rapid succession on the remote (i.e. when the kids have the remote).

For inquiring minds….components used:

  • Case – Antec Sonata II
  • Mobo – MSI K8N Neo4 Platinum
  • CPU – AMD Athlon 64 3200
  • Memory – Crucial 1GB DDR400
  • HD – Seagate 300GB UATA
  • DVD-RW – Plextor PX-716A
  • Tuner – Hauppauge WinTV-PVR 350

I started this post a couple of weeks ago and then life intervened. Last Thursday, the hard drive died after 2 weeks of operation. Hmmm…smells like a defective drive. Sent it back over the weekend and a replacement is on the way. In the meantime, I put in another drive I had at the house. Also, the need for an extra tuner has already occurred and I dropped in a PVR 150 on Sunday.

Why did I do all this? Mostly, because I can and the challenge is fun.