Question on creating a video server

Drew Tomlinson drew at
Mon Nov 10 16:15:53 PST 2008

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!!!!)
>   I can pick up really high quality, large, old-style
> video monitors from a computer surplus place near here for
> next to nothing.
>   I'd like to setup a PC and put a HDTV tuner card in it
> for over-the-air HDTV broadcasts, and use that as a TV.
>   We also have a ton of DVD's and I'd like to rip these
> to video files and put them on the PC.  Then when anyone
> wants to watch a movie they just watch it off the PC.
> I've already started doing this under Windows and it works
> great - it's even better since I can remove all those
> movie previews that the studio wants to force you to
> watch.
>   Has anyone done this with FreeBSD and open source
> software, and has recommendations on what hardware to get
> and what software works with it?
> PREFERABLY cheap - since ultimately we likely will get
> a big screen TV set once the prices fall.

I've read the thread and have to vote for a Linux install and MythTV.  
It will do everything you require rather well.  I started down the FBSD 
path for a PVR and quickly ran into trouble back in 2006.  From what I 
understand, it hasn't gotten much better due to the driver issues.  
Anyway, next I tried building MythTV on Fedora Core as it seemed to be a 
popular platform and Jerrod Wilson had a nice guide.  Being from the 
FBSD world where the ports system worked so well, I quickly found myself 
in "rpm hell", especially when Fedora Core didn't support my SCSI card 
at the time.  I found a nice home with Gentoo Linux as it's "portage" 
system is much like ports.

The biggest issue with OTA HDTV streams is that the processing power 
required to playback is pretty significant.  I used an Athlon XP 2800 
and it was barely adequate for HDTV.  I had to suffer occasional skips 
and pauses but it was still watchable.  I have since upgraded to a 
Athlon X2 3800 and the dual cores have really helped out.  One can 
playback while other system tasks are handled by the other core.  
Another issue is that HDTV is huge.  About 8 GB per hour.

However if you have the hardware around and want to give it a try, I 
suggest the HDHomerun tuner.  It's a network attached dual ATSC tuner 
that works well with both Windows and Linux for about $160 as I recall.  
MythTV supports it directly as well.  With that, a spare PC, and some 
drive space you could at least experiment.  And the beautiful part is 
that once you get your nice, new LCD,  you will have already built the 
PVR and will continue to enjoy commercial free television.

I'd be happy to answer any questions you have.  I love my MythTV build 
and wonder how I ever watched TV without it.



P.S.  I was born in 1965 and remember the way tv was as well.  :)

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