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Post by trog @ 12:58pm 20/01/10 | 49 Comments
Last year, we showed you how you could build your own home theater PC for around $500. Now, for an encore, Nats walks you through how to turn that HTPC into a fully-fledged entertainment system by also turning it into a Digital Video Recorder!

A DVR will allow you to record free-to-air TV and allow you to play it back at your convenience. Check out our DVR Project for step-by-step instructions on how to get your own Linux-powered DVR up and running easily!



htpc





Latest Comments
Pinky
Posted 01:03pm 20/1/10
Man, that is such a pro HowTo. Love it. Well done Nats.
thermite
Posted 02:44pm 20/1/10
d*** smith link doesn't work, might have to use the link from the search results page?


lol digg link --->

last edited by thermite at 14:00:32 20/Jan/10

last edited by trog at 14:44:57 20/Jan/10
trog
Posted 01:42pm 20/1/10
d*** smith link doesn't work, might have to use the link from the search results page?
Yeh, looks like it... sessionids in URLs are awesome
lol digg link --->
how come that's funny; go click it!
thermite
Posted 02:01pm 20/1/10
how come that's funny

It seems like a bug that I was able to access that control panel. It only appears on qgl.ausforums.com not ausgamers.com
Mass
Posted 02:58pm 20/1/10
Wow I never realised how much was involved in getting TV onto Linux. Man you have to be dedicated to your Linux (or really hate windows) to go through all that. I think it would have been better served showing them how to setup MythTV with Shepherd, its a much better option.
Opec
Posted 03:17pm 20/1/10
dugged
Denny
Posted 03:43pm 20/1/10
Great How-To

I've got no regrets going with Win 7 Media Center however after seeing your setup I think future builds will use XBMC
-=guitar*man=-
Posted 04:14pm 20/1/10
Great writeup, Trog. I use a mythtv backend with Shepherd (in another room, where the rabbit ears work...) and XBMC on the HTPC. Shepherd's excellent scraper means I don't need to channel-surf, so the slow channel change times don't bother me much. :)
Pinky
Posted 04:29pm 20/1/10
XP + MediaPortal here (low-spec machine) and happy. Just putting it out there ;-)

XBMC is cool but no FTA support, yeah? I don't watch much FTA but for cricket and other sport it's a must, and annoying have to switch apps.
Midda
Posted 05:04pm 20/1/10
Has anyone tried Boxee now that it's available for Windows? Looks pretty slick.
Denny
Posted 05:53pm 20/1/10
XP + MediaPortal here (low-spec machine) and happy. Just putting it out there ;-)

XBMC is cool but no FTA support, yeah? I don't watch much FTA but for cricket and other sport it's a must, and annoying have to switch apps.


Dude what do you think the write-up in this thread was for?
BillyHardball
Posted 05:58pm 20/1/10
I love this s*** and wish I had a proper income so I could give it a go. So now that the original article is a bit old, how much would it cost to get that same rig built?

Also, can you program the box to record TV at designated times?
Pinky
Posted 05:58pm 20/1/10
Dude what do you think the write-up in this thread was for?

Yeah, I know. Just saying what I got, s'all good Denny! Comprehension was one of my strongest suites in Grade 4.
`ViPER`
Posted 06:27pm 20/1/10
I know everyone thinks linux is great and all, and its free and open source, but windows Media Centre on windows 7 is f***loads easier to setup, and has better functionality.

The TV guide works straight away, drivers just download and work for pretty much everything and add in something like media browser (Its a plugin for Windows media centre 7) and all your media just works, with cover art and everything.

This is one place were linux just doesnt have it done properly yet.
Nathan
Posted 06:50pm 20/1/10
windows Media Centre on windows 7 is f***loads easier to setup


I know I said this in the last article comments - but Is it? Or do you just already know how to set up Windows?

The process covered in my article can be completed in 10 minutes; I have simply gone into a lot of detail because I realize Linux is completely unknown to most people and they will not know how to get started.


XBMC's functionality is far nicer than Media Centre + Media browser if you have a large collection, and its prettier to boot. There's a bunch of modding and skinning stuff that's fun to tinker with too. Media Center is really in the middle of the spectrum, its not awesome at anything but it covers a broad selection of things reasonably well.

XBMC is definitely weaker than Media Center in TV functionality right now, not being able to schedule a recording from within the XBMC interface is a bit lame. Of course, you dont have to run XBMC on Linux since it also runs on Windows, but since the focus of the first article was on building a new PC to run XBMC on, it seemed stupid to spend $100+ on Windows when you will just have XBMC running fullscreen 24/7
Mitch
Posted 08:42pm 20/1/10
Kinda half tempted to turn my Media PC into a Linux one ( media center + media browser atm). Gotta give this article more of a read over.
Syco
Posted 09:10pm 20/1/10
I run Win7 MCE with some little add-ins, it's freaking awesome and pretty looking. MCE has taken a big step up since XP. Easy and fast, only need a couple of mods and that's mostly just for looks.

I also found this iPhone app that lets you use your iphone as a touchpad or keyboard over wifi so I don't need to have a keyboard mouse. Works well in conjunction with my MCE remote thingie.

last edited by Syco at 21:10:51 20/Jan/10
Twisted
Posted 10:11pm 20/1/10
Nice guide :)
eXemplar
Posted 10:31pm 20/1/10
but Is it?

I used xbmc for years on an original xbox and upgraded to xbmc x86 on a PC and windows 7 is a serious step up for tv on a pc and usability in everything. The only reasons you would use a linux mce (or xbmc on windows) over w7mce is because,

- Budget (stingy)
- Wanna watch all your downloaded movies without extracting rars (pirating)
- Expandability (not many addons are actually that useful, it's mostly just pretty factor because default xbmc and mythtv look like arse)
- Wanna play around to see what else is out there before going back to w7mce

Where as the reasons to use w7mce over alternative
- Next to no config (it's literally next-next-next-waitforchannelscan-next-finish to setup a tuner)
- Next to no driver problems (good luck getting an ir remote receiver working on linux
- Turns any other w7 network pc and xbox into a tv and gives
- Easy access to recorded tv from another windows pc and xbox
- Over the air guide, now and next
- Recording shows and whole series (cuz trying to record in xbmc or mythtv suxxx)
- Intuative and quick ui

I could go on, but that has just been my experience switching from linux based to windows.

last edited by eXemplar at 22:31:53 20/Jan/10
`ViPER`
Posted 12:02am 21/1/10
I know I said this in the last article comments - but Is it? Or do you just already know how to set up Windows?


Not realy, windows 7 installs in a few clicks, its pretty much boot from the cd, click install. Once its installed, it finds drivers for everything, and I mean everything, I havent had to download a single driver for windows 7 yet, it either has it already, or find it automatically from windows update.

Then you just load Media centre, click a few buttons on the wizard, like accept, pick the tuner source and bang, its all done.

Dont get me wrong, the linux thing probably works great, and from the pics doesnt look that hard, but media centre 7 is sooo much easier. I'd like to see a follow up comparing performance/usablity to Windows 7.
Jim
Posted 12:41am 21/1/10
I gave windows 7 a shot at standing up against xbmc on 3 different pc's about 6 weeks ago - my desktop, my laptop and my asrock
it was s***

all sorts of issues getting it to be able to recognise mkv, media centre is your typical windows idiot 'we know best' type thing where it just kept saying the files couldn't be found but what it really meant was 'Im too spaz to be able to play mkv even tho wmp, vlc and mpc all can just fine'

after several reboots and reinstalls of shark etc, it finally decided to work
then it failed so horribly, horribly hard by not having a built in scraper
so I installed some plugin someone here said to use, and it managed to scrape about 80 of my 300+ movies

top stuff

back to xbmc where only 9 of my 300 movies required a .nfo file for the scraper and I'm not forced to do some idiotic microsoft method of configuration where it's assumed I have no business understanging technical issues and must be spoon fed and have things hidden away from me

it f***** cracks me up when ppl say 'windows is just click click done'

I don't even use linux on my desktop, I prefer windows
but for this it's just dumb when you've experienced the goodness that is xbmc

and whoever said good luck tog etting an ir working on linux - that's just lol.
install lirc, pick your receiver and remote and you're done
DavidBrookes
Posted 03:06am 21/1/10
Do you think there might in future be a AusGamers article on setting up a HTPC using Windows and the DVR Project using Windows?
`ViPER`
Posted 08:06am 21/1/10
Jim, did you try the media browser plugin?
HerbalLizard
Posted 08:20am 21/1/10
Just been playing with the mindlna server + upnp and a mates ps3 which seems to works like a charm
Term
Posted 10:03am 21/1/10
twonky has a good upnp server too
HerbalLizard
Posted 10:20am 21/1/10
I have a preference for MediaTomb myself but wanted to try out the mini server bolting it into clearos.

What I wouldn't mind seeing is a DVR sever with broadcast flag cut multi tuners and support epg walkthough which could be useful


last edited by HerbalLizard at 10:18:45 21/Jan/10

last edited by HerbalLizard at 10:20:23 21/Jan/10
Obes
Posted 10:23am 21/1/10
Jim keeps saying he had issues with mvk's.
Me and 2 guys at work who have machines didn't.
Jim's not a tard so it obviously can have issues, but it would also seems that it can be done with no issue.

Windows 7 was insert the disk, install the drivers. Windows 7 codec pack. Finished. It took me about 2 hours. Most of that time windows was doing its install.
The home work group thing is nice for sharing.
HerbalLizard
Posted 10:29am 21/1/10
Why not drop mvk's or trancode them to something a else. Or you could transcode on the fly
eXemplar
Posted 04:34pm 21/1/10
Why not drop mvk's or trancode them to something a else. Or you could transcode on the fly

This sums it up quite nicely, from http://handbrake.fr/
AVI: AVI is a rough beast. It is obsolete. It does not support modern container features like chapters, muxed-in subtitles, variable framerate video, or out of order frame display.
HerbalLizard
Posted 07:29pm 21/1/10
Yes I am aware of how s***** avi is but I was suggesting it to jim as an alternative while not the best option going its better than nothing. However what I was thinking about was a upnp/dlna app for the thecus n7700 he is running and then trans-coding the stream on the fly
TicMan
Posted 07:34pm 21/1/10
Does Linux support BluRay playback yet?
HerbalLizard
Posted 07:36pm 21/1/10
Yeap there is some f*****y with the keys and audio

https://help.ubuntu.com/community/RestrictedFormats/BluRayAndHDDVD
pic
Posted 09:17pm 21/1/10
Cool article and all... but are you sure about this bit -

Tuning: A DVB-T tuner device can tune into only one multiplex at a time, but can record from multiple services on the same multiplex simultaneously.


This means a single tuner could record Channel 9 and Channel GO at the same time, but could not record from Channel 9 and Channel 10 simultaneously. To do that, you will require multiple TV tuners.


How did I not know this and can I get W7MC to do the same?

Also while we're at it, what plugins do you all use for media center?
weedy
Posted 12:20am 22/1/10
I'm using Vista Ultimate which has Media Centre built in but i never use it. For my Media box i want a fully fledged OS experience as i find it handy to have lots of features available. I have a dual channel HD tuner so i can watch another channel why i record another.

Linux still has a fair way to come before id think about using it as a media box, flash support is a major killer for me especially because of iview which is a real shame.

I use open source for everything else but until linux becomes more hardware friendly it stays in VMware images so i can tinker and be up to date with new distros. You dont put linux on ur pc, you buy ur pc for linux.
BSS
Posted 01:59am 22/1/10
Another great article. A few notes...

In my case I didn't appear to need to firmware update the TV tuner. It worked immediately. I haven't noticed any issues.

As for using TVheadend vs MythTV, I'm interested to hear some expanded thoughts on the "slow channel-changing". With a MythTV backend I've noticed that my channel up/down buttons just freeze the TV playback. I just reverted to using the UI overlay which looks almost identical to the one screenshotted in this article. Still takes a few seconds to buffer the channel, but I thought it was reasonable. I'm really just wondering if it's worth my while to switch my backend to TVheadend.

My background:
I've had a HTPC/DVR set up under my TV for quite a few years now. Had been using MediaPortal under XP for most of that time. I find MediaPortal to be great once it's set up, but still a little janky. It's not perfect, but I still prefer it to Windows Media Centre. I tried the Media Centre included in Windows 7 recently and had heaps of trouble doing the simple things like browsing my media. I don't think I ever managed to get it to add my music to the library.
Anyway the HTPC article last year inspired be to dump the old, noisy full-ATX PC I had been using, buy an ION330 and try XBMC. XBMC is similar to MediaPortal in many ways (not surprising since it's a fork) except the UI incredibly sexy and you don't need to quit it to change settings. For the Windows users, if you aren't a huge channel surfer, I definitely recommend checking it out.
I still wanted live TV on this new box so I didn't actually follow the HTPC article. I used Mythbuntu rather than Ubuntu just because it already includes MythTV and lirc making the configuration a little easier. It also uses xfce instead of Gnome which would free up some resources. Not to mention all the other included software you probably aren't using if XBMC is fullscreened 24/7. By some amazing coincidence I bought the same TV tuner as recommended in this article. It was the cheapest one that I could find that appeared to have good Linux support.

Anyway thanks Nats!

Edit: Oh yeah and get the YouTube plugin for XBMC.
Spook
Posted 07:39am 22/1/10
Why not drop mvk's or trancode them to something a else. Or you could transcode on the fly

because you dont need to
Nathan
Posted 08:05am 22/1/10
How did I not know this and can I get W7MC to do the same?

I think technically its a feature that the DVR has to add, I'm not sure if Media Center has it.


Linux still has a fair way to come before id think about using it as a media box, flash support is a major killer for me especially because of iview which is a real shame.

Linux has had Flash support for a long, long time. I dont know of any XBMC iView plugins though.


You dont put linux on ur pc, you buy ur pc for linux.

That's certainly got some truth to it for a HTPC - the TV tuner in particular needs to be researched. The IR receiver is simple enough (Microsoft's solution has been available and supported for 5+ years now) and any Nvidia or ATI card will work OK for graphics if you dont require 1080p, otherwise you'll need to make sure your CPU is fast enough.


In my case I didn't appear to need to firmware update the TV tuner. It worked immediately.

I also have an older AverTV Volar (no "X" - its been phased out now) which is like this, the appropriate file is already in /lib/firmware . I suppose the same will be true when Ubuntu 10.04 is released for the newer Volar X - its a bit of a shame that Ubuntu dont make new firmware files available as updates.


Still takes a few seconds to buffer the channel, but I thought it was reasonable.

I should clarify, I was talking in terms of using the Myth and Tvheadend plugins within XBMC - where for Myth I would see change times of about 5 seconds, compared to 1 second for Tvheadend. The difference is very noticable. For reference, using the standard Mythfrontend I see about 3 seconds, which I'd say is bearable.
Nathan
Posted 08:03am 22/1/10
Windows 7 codec pack.


Do you mean http://www.windows7codecs.com/ ?
kappa
Posted 09:52am 22/1/10
MKV's in W7 is ridiculously easy.

http://www.hack7mc.com/2009/02/mkvs-for-minimalists-on-windows-7.html

However I used haali media splitter instead of Gabests Matroska Splitters.
Spook
Posted 10:02am 22/1/10
i woudlnt say its ridiculously easy, i used haali media splitter too, which isnt as easy as just installing a codec, like you did with vista/xp

Jim
Posted 10:04am 22/1/10
yeh media browser was the one that ppl said to try viper

MKV's in W7 is ridiculously easy.

yep i tried the hack7mc minimalist guide as well

but don't you mean 'mkv in media centre is ridiculously easy'? cos as I said, I could already play mkv's fine in windows 7 with vlc, wmp and media player classic - it was just media cantre that refused to play them until random installing, rebooting and having it eventually and suddenly work
HeardY
Posted 10:12am 22/1/10
I am the newbiest newb of them all and mkv's work for me under win7 with MPC Home Cinema - I don't recall installing anything else, it 'just works'.

kappa
Posted 10:12am 22/1/10
Yeah sorry in MC. I'm just talking from personal experience, but with a fresh Win7 install, all I needed to do was install ffdshow and haali and MC was playing all my mkvs. It was very easy.

And another +1 for mediabrowser plugin. It's a great interface for media and scraps the movie info and covers etc.

I found that avoiding these 'plays everything' codec packs eg. Shark007 and only installing what I needed was the best approach.
Jim
Posted 10:40am 22/1/10
yeh it worked fine for me in mpc as well heardy
Jim
Posted 11:09am 22/1/10
seems it's not an isolated issue:

last edited by trog at 11:04:08 07/Jun/10
Murderer
Posted 12:39am 23/1/10
Nats from [SA]?? asin nathan?!
Syco
Posted 03:04am 23/1/10
I believe if you've updated WMP to the latest versions most codecs/containers work straight up in MCE. Also, remember, if you're running win 7 64bit you need 64bit codecs for MCE. You can install all the 32bit codecs you want but none will be used.
Obes
Posted 09:34am 23/1/10
You'd have to be a loon bag to use 64bit for a media center.
3x0dus
Posted 08:41pm 22/3/10
Finishes setting this all up today.
Running it on Dell Insipiron 1720? Laptop with the 8600M card, VDAPU works a treat no issues with HD.
Running Dual Volar X Recording/watching all a breaze.

Only 1 thing of note is that if you use XBMC remote to access the video content on your phone, it dosnt list the live tv properly, works fine via just remote and use the screen.
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