Question on creating a video server

Ted Mittelstaedt tedm at
Mon Nov 10 01:41:40 PST 2008

> -----Original Message-----
> From: owner-freebsd-questions at
> [mailto:owner-freebsd-questions at]On Behalf Of John Almberg
> Sent: Saturday, November 08, 2008 3:38 PM
> To: Ted Mittelstaedt
> Cc: freebsd-questions at
> Subject: Re: Question on creating a video server
> On Nov 8, 2008, at 1:40 PM, Ted Mittelstaedt wrote:
> > Hi All,
> >
> >   OK, I'm just asking for opinions here on some application
> > software.
> >
> >   Like most people we have a nice big 21" TV set that will be
> > obsolete in Feb.  I have been thinking about replacing this with a
> > big screen TV set but the prices on them are still way, way
> > way out of my budget (I just can't see spending $500 for
> > a TV set, sorry!!!!)
> >
> Why not just get a digital converter and keep using your nice TV?

I had considered that.  Currently my 21" TV has an RF input only, no
composite, no S-video.  I'm feeding it from a VCR that does have composite
input/RA jacks, but no S-video.  I have a DVD player feeding the VCR with
composite output/RCA.

I have a Toshiba laptop that has a composite output & DVD player.  I have
used this to watch DVD's and also AVI files.  The quality is noticably
worse than watching them on the laptop LCD screen.  Of course, sitting 8-9
feet away from the TV set that is hard to notice.

I had originally thought in building the video server to just feed the
VCR with composite output from a video card - in fact, I have a vga
card in the video PC that has composite output.  Then, buying one of
the really cheap HDTV converters and feeding the composite output
of that to the VCR - or maybe picking up a composite-input video switchbox.
But then I started thinking about how ugly such a solution would be.
Worse, the DVD player itself is getting old - it's an Apex - and I've
had 2 other Apexes and both have failed due to old age, now.  Also
the VCR is getting old too.  That is why I was thinking maybe just go
with a cheap VGA monitor instead of a TV set, use a HDTV usb tuner,
and get rid of the DVD player and the VCR.

Really, the idea is that this isn't a permanent solution.  Ultimately
I am planning on going to a LCD tv set.  This is just to tide me over
for maybe a year.  About the only thing that we actually watch on broadcast
anymore is the Late Show with Jay Leno.  And even that is very trying.

The simple fact is that if there was a TV show that I'd like to watch,
I'm no longer willing to sacrifice my time to commercials.  For example,
take Sara Conner Chronicles.  We loved all the Terminator movies and I'd
love to watch that TV show.  But, we are going to wait until the entire
TV show is finished, (most shows don't last more than 8-9 seasons) then
we are going to wait until they release the entire run of shows in one
large boxed DVD set.  Then I'll watch it.  Consider for example Babylon 5.
We bought all 5 seasons of that in one fell swoop - $250 for the set I
think it was.  There's 110 episodes there.  Each one when aired was an
hour - with 20 minutes of commercials.  That's 36 -hours- of commercials
for the entire season and we aren't talking the movies.  Well, I don't
know about anyone else, but my time is worth a lot more than $6.94 an
hour. ($250 / 36 hours)

Now it is true we watched Bab-5 when it aired.  But, that was a decade
ago, we didn't have the option of paying to opt-out of commercials.  And
we also missed a few episodes anyway.  Watching them nowadays, without
the commercial interruptions, it's the way TV should be.  Far more
enjoyable way to spend some time.

We are doing this with Star Trek Enterprise.  Both my wife and I are ST fans
and we tried watching Enterprise the first season.  But we just couldn't
do it.  Having to deal with setting the timer on the VCR (since the air
times were never convenient) was a pain to have to remember - as you
know shows will go to repeats without warning in the middle of a season.
And then watching the show and having to fast-forward through the
commercials was an even greater pain - you just start getting into the
story and it breaks for commercial.  Well, neither my wife and I suffer
from Attention Deficit Disorder where we need that commercial break to
reboot our brains.  It really ruined the stories.  So we gave up and
just waited.  Eventually, as all things in life do, Enterprise ended.
This Christmas we will get the boxed set and start watching it from the

Also, more and more of the shows these days are on the web.  If there's
a show we want to watch, why would we want to watch it on network TV
and suffer through all the commercials when we can just stream it off
the same network's website -without- commercials?  Take Saturday Night
Live, well that's not a show I'd really want to bother archiving - it's
really not classic TV - but it is sometimes fun to kill an hour watching
it.  The web is great for that.  And once more, the 1 or 2 national
you might have to deal with watching the show over the Internet are
far better than the local network affiliate which inserts a lot of
really crappy commercials from local car dealers and whatnot.

Anyway, I am a supporter of over-the-air broadcast TV, it was a great
invention.  I was born in '66 so I grew up pre-VCR and I remember
how it was.  I remember how everyone would plan their lives around
the special TV shows, and how everyone the next day would be talking
about a particular show.  Remember Roots?  I think a good case could
be made that Barak Obama would not have existed as a politician if
it hadn't been for Roots.  Remember Shogun?  Remember
Centennial in '78 & '79?  Unless you lived through those days you
don't understand the effect on American culture that broadcast TV had.
But, videotape changed everything.  And today, I feel that the television
networks really have nothing to offer beyond immediate things such as news,
or sporting events, or election returns, or something like that.


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