Adventures in Televison (Part One)

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As those of you that know me know, I have been a ReplayTV user since the first model came out. I upgraded to the networked model when that came out, and generally I have been pretty happy with it. Until this last winter when, suddenly, I started to run into recording conflicts - two shows on at the same time that I wanted to record. ReplayTV has also been removing useful features like commercial skip and internet sharing from their boxes. All of this lead me to start looking at PC based solutions for recording television. This is the story of my journey to recording satisfaction.

Afte looking around at the software that was out there I soon dismissed the idea of MythTV or any of the other Linux based solutions. It looks like they are way better tan anything else out there, but I am too lazy to get into the whole Linux thing. I used a Linux box back in the late 90's as a household server and internet gateway - I just don't have the time (or frankly, attention span) to go through that again.

So, having decided it was going to be a Windows solution I did the minimum amount of reseach possible and settled on SnapStream's Beyond TV product - it supports multiple tuners, has the minimum feature set I need, a good user community, and most importantly, it looked like the interface was something that entire family could live with.

For hardware I decided to go for something that would have a little life left in it before becoming obsolete - I went for an Nvidia chipset motherboard and an AMD 64 3000+. For the graphics card I chose an Nvidia 6200 (I can't be bothered to remember which manufacturer) mainly because of the HDTV support. For the video digitizers I have two Hauppauge USB2 PVRs, each one hooked up to a DirecTV receiver. The receivers are controlled using Serial to Lowspeed data port, which makes channel changing foolproof. Input to the digitizers is through svideo. Initially I had a single 250GB harddisk, allowing around 100 hours of high quality recordings, though I later added a 120GB drive to put the OS and live TV bufers onto. The machine also has 512mb of RAM.

I've been using this setup since January 05, and over all I have been pretty happy with ti. It can record two shows at the same time, while watching a recorded show, it's easy to dump stuff onto DVD (something that never worked too well with stuff pulled off the ReplayTV) and it's very easy to dump mpeg or other media from other sources (cough - bittorrent) onto the PVR and play it within the BeyondTV interface.

Quality is pretty good - it looks a little better than the ReplayTV would say (though there has been a lot of tweaking). I'm using the Nvidia PureVideo decoder, which really does seem to make a difference in the display quality on a hi-def TV. The main problem that I continue to run into is that I get harddisk thrashing on occasion when switching from recorded shows to live TV and soemtimes when switching channels in live TV - thi will basically lock the machine up for a little over a minute.

This is the next thing that I plan to try tackling - just not sure if the best approach is adding more ram (up to a gig) or adding another harddisk to separate the OS (and pagefile) and the Live TV buffers. I'll probably end up doing both.

After that the big thing is going to be waiting for High Def support to come from Snapstream. Having seen some high def stuff (cough - bittorrent) it makes a huge difference, plus the idea of being able to record the HDTV stream directly from the set top boxes Firewire port without recompression is pretty attractive. More posts coming as things progress...

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You may want to check Linux out again. It's a lot easier than it was in the late 90's.

In fact there's a easy set top box distro called knoppmyth at http://www.mysettopbox.tv

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This page contains a single entry by edgore published on June 7, 2005 1:14 PM.

Sunshine, Joy and Updates was the previous entry in this blog.

Adventures in Televison (Part Two) is the next entry in this blog.

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