In this book I'll describe and document my expierences with building a [googledef:PVR|PVR], a Personal Video Recorder. A PVR is something like a harddisk meeting your videorecorder combined with TV. This gives you great new opertunities, such as
There are several hard and software component and solutions for this. If you want no hussle and dont mind about proprietary software and standards, money and vendor locking, buy yourself a mediacentre from Microsoft. It fits your needs.
If you do care about how to watch what, want an open infrastructure that is future proof and you have some spare time (lots of it!) and can manage a Linux box, pick MythTV. It is an OpenSource PVR with a very active community, an open infrastructure and lots of features.
For example, watching TV ("frontend") and recording TV "backend" can be seperated on different machines and you can even have multiple frontends and backends. It also comes packed with additional features like:
In this book, I'll descibe my adventures building my PVR. You might help me or might learn from me. Share what you know, learn what you dont.
Note that not all my PVR related postings will end up here, but all of the PVR related blog entries can be found with the taxonomy term PVR.
First think about what you want to do. Will you be building a backend that is in another room? Than you might want to fo for a "Big PC" with lots of noisy vans and an ugly case and your frontend might be a slick barebone or even an XBOX.
If you want to have an "All-in-One" system, you might want to go for a neat barebone that is silent and a TV card than can do hardware encoding/decoding.
Then check the hardware. And before you check the hardware, make sure to check the hardware. And again. I cant stress this enough, make sure that the hardware you select will work both under Linux and under MythTV.
Google for hardware and MythTV, go to your hardware store and ask if that socket fits in that motherboard, if there are enough PCI/AGP slots, if it isnt a mini PCI slot. Then with that complete list google again to see if people build something like that. Great resources are Build Your Own PVR and PVR Hardware database. In the links session are more usefull links.
This page is Work In Progress
Here is my initial hardware list. Unfortunaly during the building, the suppling company found out that one of the cards didnt fit in the system. Fit as in, not without bending, breaking or using a hammer. Therefor I shoped around for a new system which can be found on the following page.
Lets start with the requirements. I want a nice looking box. My g/f doesnt want a huge machine in the livingroom that looks like a computer and neither of us want a teenager box with lots of leds. So child play stuff like this ugly box from ASUS is a no go area (my god, it looks like it was designed by Philips in the 80ies). Most of all it should be silent, very silent. And since it will be on all the time, powerconsumption should be low. Since I am not that handy with hardware, there should be an option to let it be build.
I want to watch and record shows on the same box, so both frontend and backend combined in one. It would also be nice to have more than one tuner so I could watch one channel and "tape" another or record two channels at once. It also needs to have a big harddisk, not too much memory and all industry standard components. It needs to have internet access as well, preferbly WiFi (at least "b").
I went to mycom, one of the best computer shops in the Netherlands. Good as mycom might be, they are louzy at barebones. They have a list of about a dozen barebone systems, but none of them are in stock or can be sold! Still, they helped me very well.
This is the list of stuff I plan to buy
With a sound pressure level of 46.1 dB/A at a distance of 18 millimeters, the Caviar WD2500JD simply does not deliver the quiet idle noise levels that purchasers have come to enjoy with products such as Seagate's Barracudas and Maxtor's latest DiamondMax units.On the other hard, it has got good reviews from the silentpcreview folks
Now most barebones come with on baord wired Ethernet, in my case even Gigabit. My box doesnt have any free slots (a downside of barebones!) yet I dont want to create a wired network in my house. I thought I had two options. I own an excellent Squeezebox (model 1) which is kind of "Wifi to your HiFi". It has Wireless and an onboard 10Mb ethernet NIC. I read once that you could use this box as a bridge, use wireless to connect to the netwiork and extend it wired via the onboard NIC with a crossover cable. However, this feature was added in model 2 and later, so this was not an option for me.
The second option is to buy a new WiFi accespoint and use my current (old "b" one) as an wired extender towards the PVR. Since I still have 10Mb hub's in my computerroom, I could buy a new simple accesspoint with a couple of 100Mb slots. By simple I mean that it doesnt have to do NAT, DHCP, Firewall, ADSL etc. I do that kind of stuff on my own Linux firewall. Simple isnt an option anymore it seems, so I ended up with a nice Accesspoint with 4 100Mb ports and some basic networking stuff I am not going to use.
So I'll get rid of my 10Mb switch and accesspoint in my computerrom and use the new accesspoint as a switch and wireless "b"/"g" network. My old accesspoint will be in the livingroom and deliver fixed ethernet to my PVR. I think this will work.
After my last try to get some hardware together for my PVR, I did another try at computerland.nl. And this is the list I came up with. I did a downpayment 2 days ago, so I hope I'll have my system within 2 or 3 days. Apart from a good service with computerland, I also managed to get some 60 euro's of the bill, just by asking ;-)
This is the list of stuff bought:
I'll update this page once I got my hardware.
Before building my MythTV box, I surfed a lot to find some help. And it did help me. In case you are thinking about building your own, these links might be interesting to check out.
Remote2Key, allows you to control your computer with a remote control.
A beginner look at MythTV, MythTV is a software package that lets you turn your Linux-based computer into a television and personal video recorder (PVR) by recording shows onto the hard disk.
On this page you can find some "Nl" specific configuration for MythTV users
The current (16/3/06) /usr/bin/tv_grab_nl script will not download the TV schedule from tvgids.nl due to s small silly bug. You have to make the month/day part of the UTL case insensitive. Look around line 1400 and change all entrys so the they will work with "Maart" as well as "maart" by changing them like:
You can find logo's of most of the channels available in the Netherlands, at xmltv.fambus.nl/logos/.
The most difficult part of installing/configuring MythTV is getting the data, name and frequency of all the channels in the database. Since there must be more MythTV users in your area, chances are that someone already did this. So help each other, do you have a working MythTV setup and you life in the Netherlands?
Than /please/ post your database dump, including TV provider, area with 4 digit zipcode, so I can make a small repository for MythTV newbees to download. And when you move to a new place, you dont have to reconfigure all channels the hard way :-)
So do the following dump command:
mysqldump --skip-opt --where "freqid is not null" -u mythtv -p mythconverg channel
It will prompt for the password of the mythtv user.
For under $500 you can build a computer that will record HDTV, schedule your favorite shows anywhere in the world, allow you to back up and archive your standard or high def content, display your favorite RSS news feeds, and play all your old-school MAME roms. All this without any monthly subscription fee, made possible with MythTV.Download the video's for yourself to see this episode. The torrents came in here at 500KBps. Other shows are worth watching as well.
The tittle of this book- PVR, the drug of a generation- was inspired by a song from the Disposable Heroes Of Hiphoprisy song Television, the drug of a nation:
Back again, "New and improved"
We return to our irregularly programmed schedule
hidden cleverly between heavy breasted
beer and car commercials
T.V. is the place where phrases are redefined
like "recession" to "necessary downturn"
"Crude oil" on a beach to "mousse"
"Civilian death" to "collateral damages"
and being killed by your own Army
is now called "friendly fire"