I really wasn’t going to write about this, but a posting’s just gone up on Digg and I figured I’d better update. The Digg story referred to this article on building a homebrew DVR using SageTV software.
Paying $80 for software – that’s so not me.
I have chosen to use KnoppMyth, a Linux distribution based on Knoppix Linux and MythTV. For the un-geeky, “Linux distribution” refers to the operating system software that speaks directly to my computer’s chips. Windows XP is an example of an operating system.
What makes Linux so interesting as an operating system is, it’s free and it’s mainly supported by its own community of users.
MythTV is the actual suite of programs (also free) which turn my computer into a DVR.
What KnoppMyth does is make them play nicely together. Once you stick the KnoppMyth disk into your CD drive, most (not all) of the work has been done.
OK – enough of the technical stuff. How does it work and what have I discovered?
I’m pretty impressed with the quality. I haven’t played much with changing the capture parameters, but the way it’s set up now, recorded shows don’t look any different from what I’d expect to see on a TV screen.
The computer is currently in Steffie’s playroom. I thought it would stay there, but moving the video as packets across my network isn’t quite as simple as I thought. It will probably move into my office, on a shelf under the TV. I’ll unplug the computer monitor and move the video directly into a TV set.
Being able to program the DVR over the Internet is amazing – very powerful. More than once I have scheduled a recording while I was away from home.
Internet programming might be a problem over the long run because Comcast changes my home IP address from time-to-time. Imagine going to work in the morning and having all your stuff moved to a secret location while you’re away.
Also on the list of impressive features is the use of a MySQL database to hold the programming information. Enter a name, title, subject – nearly anything, and the DVR will let you know when something that matches will air. If there’s a conflict, it will even figure out another time to record! That’s very cool.
I recorded a program and wanted it on a DVD. No sweat. MythTV does all the grunt work of setting that up.
The computer I’m using is from the 90s. Its hard drive is large enough to hold 30 hours of high quality video. That should be enough.
One of the advantages of this free software is my ability to play around with it and modify it. I’ve done a little. I plan on doing more.
At some point, this homebuilt DVR will make me cry. All my computer projects do at one time or another. I try and keep it all in perspective, but stuff you throw together on a kitchen table or the floor of a spare room just isn’t the same as what you buy at Circuit City or Best Buy.
I’m not sure whether that’s good or bad.