TiVo vs. MythTV vs. Freevo

I’ve got TiVo, and like any other user, I can’t imagine trying to watch TV without it, but…well, I’m thinking I can get more bang for my buck, or even just more bang, going with a homegrown alternative. I’m mostly leaning toward MythTV, but I’ve looked at Freevo, too.

This is what I’m thinking:
[ul][li]My house is networked, so I’ve got the infrastructure for remote storage and control.[/li][li]I’ve got a decent computer, but more than that, I’ve got a mostly decent, but “obsolete” system, that I could use as a platform, a dedicated box.[/li][li]I could more easily expand the features and functionality than with the TiVo hacks (which I’ve already done fairly extensively.) This stems from the fact that what are hacks for TiVo are features of the alternatives and, in theory, integrate much more easily and seamlessly into the performance.[/li][li]I could add a digital media adapter and access all my music, mp3, ogg, etc, remotely and play it on my home system.[/li][li]Likewise, I could rip DVDs to a drive and play those, meaning I’d never need to swap disks, or burn “archival” copies. This means I could play mymovies anywhere in the house that is networked…which is everywhere in the house.[/li][li]Speaking of, I can more easily expand the total system memory/disk space, which would certainly be needed if I,[/li][li]Added a second tuner card to record multiple shows at once and/or watch TV while recording.[/ul][/li]So, I’m presenting a question which is bordering on IMHO here because I am showing a bit of forum snobbery and I want to get a better bit of exposure, no offense to IMO’ers, but you understand, I’m sure.

What’s the SD on TiVo alternatives? Can they offer me what I’m looking for, as listed above? From someone that’s done it, is it a helluva lot more work than it seems to be or pretty straighforward, as it seems to be? And is it exceptionally more expensive, or only moderately moreso?

Go to the AVS Forum. They cover all such issues in detail and you’ll get people who know their stuff.

As to a Home Theater PC: You’re not likely to get far with a left over. Video demands processor, very good video card, and a fast hard drive. AVS has a complete section on HTPCs.

ReplayTVs do allow for home networking. In fact I think recent TiVos do the same. Part of what you’re paying for is the scheduling process.

Bottom line, a good HTPC will probably cost you as much as 4 or 5 Tivos.

Disclaimer: I’m not speaking from my own experience but from that of a close friend.

He’s just about finished a mythTV box and it’s cost him about $500 to $600. The supplies he purchased mostly through ebay include:
-New Motherboard
-Celeron 1.7 ghz chip (MythTV will work with I believe a PIII 450 but will be severly limited)
-TV Tuner card that can perform Video Encoding
-60 gig hard drive (not quite enough space but he’s adding more later)
-Video Card with TV-Out
-IR Blasters to handle chanel chaning on digital cable box

What he has working:
-Recording and playback
-Myth’s other features like weather
-His entertainment center remote controling MythTV
-He’s currently working on getting “live” tv functions going

His biggest gripe about the whole project is the time it was taken him to get it working. MythTV being run on RedHat Linux has been fighting him on every software install and piece of hardware. And this is for someone very experienced with Linux.

All that being said, I’m extremely jealous and want to build one myself. As I already own a TiVo my wife won’t let me.


I guess I should have mentioned, the “obsolete” system is a 1.5 or 1.7 GHz and I’ve got a 120Gb drive sitting, unopened, on a shelf, so it’s the video, TV, and DMA stuff I’d need to get (which I delude myself thinking I can offset some of the cost of afterwards by selling the hacked 150 hour TiVo w/Turbonet).

Interesting to hear about the Linux problems, I’m an almost true novice w/ Linux, having only used it in hacking the TiVo, and there pretty much just following the guides.

I know Series2 TiVos and ReplayTV’s allow home networking, but they exclude video extraction and many of the other features I’d like to have, like the music from a computer versus stored on the TiVo, which is what lead me to looking elsewhere.

As opposed to Linux only, Hauppauge offers windows-based setups that might be a somewhat “easier” setup and maintenanced system. Since this the 250/350 are often mentioned in the Linux-based system setups, it seemed worth checking out the products site, and lo and behold, they have their own PVR programs!

I will dig into the AVS forum, though, too, so thank you for that.

I’m building a MythTV right now. Like any Linux project, it has it’s err challenges. I’ve got it displaying to the TV, recording incoming signals, downloading the TV Guide-like data, and doing all the underlying stuff (like networking, etc.). Right now, I’m stuck on getting a remote to work. Also, the quality of the TV image is somewhat jerky, but I have faith that’ll be able to be worked out by tweaking. After all that, I’ll work on getting it to play CDs, DVDs, and stored MP3s. In a future phase II, I’ll try to get players going on cheap XBOX’s, one for each TV, and use my current box as a network server that will feed the others. Also, I may work on a controller for the cable box (currently MythTV has no way of getting digital cable signals, like HBO).

It’s taken maybe two weeks working a couple hours on it here or there; I’m maybe 20 hours into it. Some of that time has been just raw labor (download this or that, install it, configure it, all by basically following directions), but some has been tear your hair out trying to figure a solution time too. About par for the course for an open-source project. To be frank, if I didn’t love the tinkering aspect of this, there’s no way it would be a good value for the time and money spent. I’m well above-average in Linux-y/GNU-ish stuff, so I’d expect someone less experienced could have a tough time with this one. I’m very excited about the potential outcome though.

I keep considering it, but haven’t made the plunge yet. I’m thinking I’m up to well over $1000 by time I get it to do what I want it to do.

Given that, your processor is fine if you have a hardware based encoder/decoder for the MPG2 work. You could get by on a crappy 500Mhz P3 with the right card. Alternatively, you can use cheap-o video capture cards with a sufficiently-fast, modern, P4-based mobo.

My problem with the pricing is I want an expensive but home-theater-looking case that’s quiet; two MPG2 cards (two channel recording or watch one, record another), a means to control my DirecTV directly (second channel on the cable line), DVD-R/W, plenty of space, voice-mail system (although we just moved to pure cellular, no landline, so I guess I can strike that from my requirements list); and a small 4" VGA LCD display for the front panel so the thing has a front panel.

Until then, I love my TiVo – the absolutely huge 200Gb drive makes is new box since the original 30Gb (just did it in Novemeber), and I’m waiting for my ethernet adapter now. It’s “good enough” but I really want the Myth box for burning, “storing” DVD’s, serving music, serving certain DiVX’s, serving pictures, and all that good stuff. Series II TiVo, while cheaper, isn’t a good enough option, either.

I say do it, and let us know how it goes!

Talk about timing! /. is just amazing sometimes.

Okay, I went browing tonight and found some itmes and now I’m wondering, why go the MythTV route when it seems that all you would need is two pieces of hardware (and a windows box, nat’ch) and you’d be set. A digital media adapter and a hardware TV encoder. Heck, they even throw in the software!

Or, you could just get and all-in-one system that “lets you organize your personal and downloaded movies, music and photos on your PC, then enjoy them on your home entertainment center.” This is different than TiVo in that it lets you access any digital media on your existing computer and play it on your stereo/tv over the home network/wireless. And though it’s listed at $399 on their website, I saw it for $199 at CompUSA tonight.

So, again, why go through the effort of MythTV if the hardware companies are giving you the software and stuff to do everything on a regular windows machine?