Still Not Ice Climbing – but lets build a MythTV!

Sadly my Saturdays and Sundays have not been filled with ice climbing trips to hidden frozen waterfalls of the Northeast.  My hand feels better despite having a small gash where it hit the edge of the BMW car door. I imagine I’ll be able to go back to the MPHC climbing gym soon.  

I miss the outdoor rock.  Ryan, Josh and I went on a few climbing trips before it got cold and before weddings and Texas.  Ryan has photos of us climbing in the Gunks and Brewster, NY available here: http://picasaweb.google.com/ryanwesleywebb these are just a sampling.

 

Peterskill - Mark, Josh

Peterskill - Mark, Josh

Ryan in Peterskill

Ryan in Peterskill

Ryan, Ice Pond

Ryan, Ice Pond

 

Mark's hand Ice Pond

Mark's hand, Ice Pond

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I spent most of yesterday reading about MythTV.  If you feel like setting up an open source home DVR (TiVo like) then Mythbuntu or KnoppMyth seem to be a couple good stable options for creating a home Linux TV recording solution.  Obviously this will only work if your signal is “free and clear”. Dish, DirecTV, ComCast, Time Warner and basically any cable or satellite provider, encrypts all premium content.  So on the one hand, local network channels and basic cable should be “free and clear” (over digital cable local channels are usually free using QAM) but with satellite it’s more likely you’ll need to rent the DVR from them.  The only reason I’ve been considering it is because I’ve needed some sort of iTunes server back-end (see my Firefly MT-DAAPD post) and it might as well DVR network HD shows we want to watch.  Also, our ATSC tuner is old (2nd or 3rd generation) and I think the latest 5th or 6th gen tuner chipset should allow us to get all the local HD broadcast channels without fussing with the antenna. 

There are three parts to most MythTV setups, which could all be integrated into one system or distributed into three smaller systems:

  • The back-end is your dedicated server which should have low power and processing requirements.  I’ve been looking at the MSI Wind ‘Nettop barebones PC (MSI’s product page) which sells on Newegg for like $139.99.  It uses an intel Atom 1.6GHz processor with minimal power draw, I think around 35 Watts max, but you could probably optimize it to use somewhat less than this.  Obviously, HDTV content takes up a fair amount of disk space, so for starters lets say a 1.0 Terrabyte hard disk drive.
  • The actual TV tuner (which now ‘a days will need to be digital ATSC HDTV compatible, unless you still have analog cable) could be as simple as a PCI card in the back-end but something even cooler is the SiliconDust HDHomeRun.  This product is two ATSC tuners in one.  It transfers HD broadcasts from over-the-air (or QAM) to your server via ethernet.  It requires DHCP to obtain an IP address, but otherwise it’s just a little box with one 10/100 ethernet jack and two antenna inputs; ATSC to IP as it were. Your back-end will recognize it as two tuners in the setup. You could watch one while the other records or both could record simultaneously.
  • The front-end will be how you actually watch the content you have archived. Say you ripped all your DVD’s and you’ve been time-shifting several seasons of Top Chef, the “front-end” is what will do the heavy lifting of playback depending on the bit rate and resolution of the video.  It should look just like any other media playback menu.  From my reading, MPEG-2 is the optimal format to save content to (thankfully DVD and ATSC signals are already MPEG-2 so no transcoding is required) and MPEG-4/h.264 require more horsepower on your machine to playback smoothly.  My MacBook Pro Core Duo 2.0 GHz would be a fine front-end however I’d need to plug it in to watch shows.  I’d be able to watch live TV wirelessly on the laptop anywhere in the house though. Note: the Elgato EyeTV is another option for Mac OS X HDTV time shifting however it doesn’t have the front-end/back-end model, your laptop has to be on and plugged into the tuner to record.
Yup.  So that’s where I’m at.  I’ve already wired the 1GigE cable to the bedroom.  I still need to do a cable run to the kitchen, but that’s not really a priority.  I think having a small machine like the Wind PC in a closet would be a nice way to have both an iTunes server and a DVR.  Apparently MythWeb allows you to easily setup recording from your web browser, so you just login and set the shows you want to watch for the week and let the back-end do its job.  There are ways to “Sling” content to yourself if you’re out of town or something, but personally I think I could wait until I’m home, and besides most of the content by the big networks is instantly available online now for free viewing.