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PVR - Essential tool or expensive toy?

 
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I - like everyone else in Australia am sick of TV adverts and want to take control of my TV viewing again.
Having done the research I've decided what I need:

1) To be able to record shows (at least 2 at a time), in high definition when available.
2) To start watching recordings before they've finished (i.e. start watching 'Survivor' at 8:55pm instead of 8:30pm, cut out the ads and finish watching at at 9:30 when I've 'caught up' with the live broadcast.
3) To be able to watch recordings(or DVDs) from any tv in the house without having to do anything special. i.e to be able to start watching something in the living room. place a bookmark in the program, retire to the bedroom and continue watching where I left off...
4) Be able to jump forward in 30 second increments with 1 touch of the remote so that zipping through advert breaks can be done in under 5 seconds! (no crappy slow FFWD like the old VCR)
5) Have a 'smart electronic program guide' that automatically updates via WWW and adjusts recording schedules accordingly so I can set up to record an entire series at the touch of a button (i.e. set up to ALWAYS record "The Alice" no matter what crazy time of day channel 7 decide to move it to - or even record it on a different channel if ch7 decide to sell it on!)
6) Be able to setup recodings remotely via WWW - so if I forget to set it up I can log in and set-up a recording from work, from otherpeoples houses, from internetcafe when on holiday etc etc....
7) Be able to rip DVDs to harddisk so that I can watch movies when *I* want and still get them for the "$1 Tuesday" price!

I've looked into it seriously and am amazed that the shops arent FULL of these machines (there is no 'TIVO' in Australia)! Surely there'd be a market? I recon I can make one for < AU$1000 from a good PC using MythTV and will have a box in our living room shortly after xmas! (Wife doesnt seem to share my enthusiasm - but I'm sure she'll LOVE it once she has the device there).

Every guy I spoken to on the topic LOVES the idea and WANTS one NOW... but most have trouble getting approval from "the domestic finacial committee" to buy such things...

Could I make a succesfull business building MythTV PVR's? or are women too reluctant to defend themsleves against evil adverts? How can this idea be 'sold' to females (who clearly evaluate such ideas with a totaly different set of criteria to those I use) !!???
 
Rancher
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I have a couple of friends that have made their own 'home theater PCs" (ht-pc) from scratch. While they have gone for high-end specifications, I'll see if I can get a price and list of hardware used. They went for raided-SATA harddrives, windows media edition, remote controller cards, big video cards and the like.

The main problem they had was that the machines simply couldn't handle the 'record/re-encode' while watching another station, or recording one whiel watching a DVD or something from the harddrive. They may have fixed that problem since then.
 
David O'Meara
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Oh, and I think you'll find they spent significantly more than $AU1000. I'd be interested to see if it could be done for that amount.
 
Alan Wanwierd
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So far my thinking is:

$120 :Case and PSU(ultimately I'd like to get a nice HTPC case for > $400)
$108 :Motherboard(nForce4 AMD socket 939 with onbaord network & sound)
$227 :CPU (AMD Athlon 3200 - 2.2Ghz)
$115 :Video card (passive cooling Nvidia Feforce 6600 with DVI, svideo out)
$ 70 :512Mb DDR ram
$152 :250Gb IDE
$170 :2 x Twinhan DVB-T tuner cards
$ 60 : DVD-RW
$ 0 : Linux Fedora Core 4
$ 0 : MythTV 0.18
====================================
$1022

Not quite under $1000 - but still pretty good... and if I'm a little bit devious about it and claim the purchases as IT related business expenses then theres a good chunk coming back in my tax return next July!!

Of course I may have issues with quietness and need to buy larger and slower fans and other bits and pieces - but if I can get the basic setup going for this price I'll be quite happy!
[ December 05, 2005: Message edited by: Adrian Wallace ]
 
David O'Meara
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now that you mention it, noise was also a problem. I like your linux based solution. I saw an article (probably via slashdot) a couple of weeks ago that used a flash drive for the OS, but this is probably too small for your requirements. I'll have to send them an email and get their specifications.
 
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My PVR from Comcast only costs me $10 more on my monthly cable bill
 
Alan Wanwierd
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Well I've done it!!

I went $40 over budget 'cos Australia (yes the ENTIRE country) sold out of Athlon CPU's over xmas, so I had to pay a little more than I expected as I ran around a few retailers to find one that had what I wanted in stock!!!

Building the box was actually reasonably straight forward and with the help of lots of 'googling' I have got it mostly configured now.

I can watch and record any of ABC, 7,9 and 10 but my SBS reception isnt string enough to maintain a 'lock' (I might get the 'antenna man' in to fix that).

I have no troubles with coding/decoding mulktiple streams (can record 2 channels and watch a recording with no problems and CPU doesnt even break a sweat).

I have even discovered to my surprise that "commercial flagging" works on some channels!! I recorded "Die Hard" last night and looking at my "MythWeb" site this morning from work I can see that it found 9 commercial breaks which it can edit out automatically if I wish!

My remote doesnt work correctly yet (I havent mapped the keys - and there arent enough buttons for all the functions required) - So I might find myself a cheap IR cordless keyboard ($55) and use my universal learning remote to send the necessary key-strokes...

I also dont have DVD playing working yet.. (no sound for some reason?!)..

But I expect in a couple of weeks to have full DVD ripping capability on the box (as well as Bit-Torrent for some serious bulk downloading of major TV series! )

As far as noise goes - my cheap case came with a 80mm exhaust fan that running at the stock 12V could drown out an A380 Airbus, so I will be spending a few dollars ($15) on a 92mm fan that I can run at 5V and cut the noise down dramatically.. My PSU makes no noise at all so the only other source of noise might be the CPU fan - and if needs be I can spend a bit ($70) on a specialist fan-heatsink combo to reduce noise still further (I'll see if it needs it after changing the case fan first).

So its all going well!! I *love* having my tv guide update itself automatically and just being able to browse it from anywehere to set up recordings!!

..All the functionality I could have wished for and a cost of ~ AUD$1200 (Tax Deductable )

Anyone out there thinking of doing a similar thing - GO FOR IT!! You wont regret it!
 
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