Saturday, August 26, 2006

Fantastic!


I spoke (wrote) earlier this year about cooking up a PC based PVR solution. I was leaning toward MythTV, because I like Linux and the idea of free software. Sadly, it just didn't seem to fit my needs. Mostly, I want the thing to just record programs to .mpg files, so that I can view them later on my computer. Myth uses some kind of weird format that seemed complicated. Thanks to a tout from MD, I tried BeyondTV.

Couldn't be happier. Well, I could if it was free. But the performance and feature set is all I could ask for. I bought a Hauppauge PVR 150 (low end hardware encoding TV tuner card) and put it into my livingroom PC, a 1.13gHz Pentium III. Took maybe a half hour to install (if you subtract out the time it took to install the stupid ATI Remote Wonder software), and in moments I was recording TV. It's got all the Tivo-like features, record every episode of something, or only new episodes, etc.

Caveat: it isn't perfect. There are minor picture quality issues and there is the occasional stutter when you choose a function. However, (and it's a big butt), these issues are identical to what you get with a Tivo. I can tweak this PC with more memory, faster hard drive, etc. And I am using some pretty cheap hardware, so the sky is the limit.

Summary: It's a 1.13gHz Compaq Deskpro with a 40gb drive and 256mb of RAM. (the neat thing about this particular form-factor (above) is that it's just the right width to fit in my media shelving unit, AND has various full-feature features. And dirt cheap on ebay). It uses about 60% of processor time when I'm recording one program and watching another. I'm going to add a second tuner card and see what happens. The software has facilities whereby you can buy client licenses for other networked PCs in the house, and view the programs from the main machine on the client machines. And it also handles digital/HD with the right hardware. Say, that's future-proof!

Color me pleased.

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