Linux PVR

This is more of a why-to than a how-to about using Mythtv and FC5 to build a PVR. Personal Video Recorder.

For those who dont know, let me explain. It all started with TIVO. TIVO is a digital recording device that can be programmed to record multimedia content off TV and radio. Programming is as simple as selecting material from a graphical presentation and deciding if single or multiple episodes should be recorded.

A PVR is also a digital recording device but not as intelligent as a TIVO.

Linux is a Unix like operating system that can be used to build a TIVO like system using Mythtv. Linux and Mythtv are free software. TIVO and PVR are expensive to own or rent. A Linux/Mythtv system is much more affordable and can do more that even the TIVO. It can automatically skip commercials while acting like a TIVO.

Regardless of which system is used, it is nice to be able to service both broadcast and cable TV. In most cases this is a mute point because cable includes local broadcast stations, but what if it does’nt. That is my situation.

My PVR is running on an Athlon 1800 with 256meg ram, 80gig hard drive, and Hauppage PVR-250 card.

It takes input from my old TV antenna, decodes the signals, and allows me to choose which programs to record and/or watch. That is it. Nothing more.

I already have a dish network setup using a PVR they supply and that setup handles all the cable stuff. I dont have the local channels included in the cable setup because I could not justify paying for something I already had and putting up with a second dish just for local channels.

My original intent was to use the Linux/PVR to replace the rented PVR but it turned out that was not a viable option. First, 80gig is not a large enough hard drive. Then there was the problem of controling channels. I do have an rf remote to handle the cable stuff but the Linux/PVR is in a seperate room and is IR. No problem, I just run a cable with an IR led on the end to the front of the dish network box and let the computer handle the channel select. The dish network box will respond to IR as well as RF remote control.

I never got that far. Mainly because I only had 80 gig of storage on the hard drive. To make an overall system work, I would need at least 200gig and a couple of 250gig drives would have been ideal.

That probably won’t happen anytime soon, so I am using the Linux/PVR system for local programing only.

Does it work? Yes, indeed! Works great. It also allows me to move media content from the PVR to the Linux system so that I can make DVDs and recordings of the cable programing.

However, if I had to do it again, I would go for a faster computer and most definately shoot for at least 300gig of total hard drive storage as well as invest in a dual channel TV receiver card.

Then, I could get rid of the DishNetwork PVR which I am still renting for 5 bucks a month.

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