Mythtv – my experience

I know, I know, long time no post. Sorry, I’ve been busy.

Anyway, new this week….my Mythtv experiences. For those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about I’ll start at the beginning. A DVR is a digital video recorder. Many people use them to record their TV nowdays instead of a VCR. Why you might ask? It’s much easier to be able to schedule the shows you want to record, you can skip the commercials, the picture quality is better, etc… There are many reasons to use a DVR.

Mythtv is an open source DVR software suite. What is open source? It means the code that the program is written in is freely available for anyone to look at an modify as they need. Very cool.

Basically what Mythtv allows me to do is build my own DVR. If you’ve ever heard of Tivo, it’s like a normal person building a Tivo.

Ok, that was all information for the people who didn’t know what I was talking about in the first place.

Why would I want to build my own DVR? It’s true I don’t care much about TV. I find it amusing, but could definately do without, so why build my own mythtv box? Because it’s one of the coolest uses of Linux and high powered computers one can find. That’s what excites me (and probably why the rest of you are bored out of your skull right now). The other thing building my own DVR let’s me do is tap into HDTV(High Definition TV). If you don’t build your own HDTV box you’ll probably end up paying in the $1000s to be able to watch any HDTV broadcast program. That because HDTV sets and receivers are really expensive right now. Eventually they’ll all come down in price, but right now there’s an early adopter penalty price :-).

Anyway, on to my experience….Non geeks, and people without advanced computer degreees, DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME. I’m a geek. I live at a computer, and this was difficult for me. I hate to admit that but it’s true. This project is still in it’s infancy and there’s a lot of manual tweeking you have to do. I think it took me 2 days to get it working the first time. I should say “working” because not every thing works right. The programs scheduling and everything is really cool, but not terribly intuitive. It took me a few tries to actually get a program recorded. Nat will be happy to know that right now I have a DVD with two episodes of Smallville recorded in HD, just waiting for him.

Unfortunately there are a lot of things I still have to figure out. Automatic commercial removal – not so automatic, more tweeking involved. Transcoding into a popular format – takes about 2 days to transcode an HD recorded program(Athlon XP 32000). Not good, needs to get better.

So, basically I’m still figuring it all out, and by the time I’ve figured it out something better will probably come along.

The geek factor is the coolest though. That’s really why I’m doing the project anyway. I’m learning tons about linux, video formats, media delivery, and DVRs. It just doesn’t get any better than this.

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