I have been a (fairly) satisfied owner of a TiVo for over a year. I have long thought about creating a DIY PVR from scratch, but never got around to it. It was easier to spend $100 and $13/mo for the TiVo.
Well, as TiVo becomes more and more evil (DRM, Broadcast Flags, etc), it’s time to seriously look at other options. Especially since I can’t download TiVo videos to my Mac, I have not real reason to stick with them.
After looking around, I’ve decided to build my own system, and to go ahead and take some extra time and effort to do it right.
This page will be a running commentary on my thoughts, and will evolve into a description of what I have done… Feel free to add or correct information, and to leave suggestions or comments. This is a “learn as I go” sort of thing.
I am going to start by building what essentially be a media server/PVR. This box will not (initially anyway) be designed to sit in the living room connected to the TV.
My concept is to get a low cost Intel based machine, that is capable of being upgraded in the future. I figure I will choose components that should be compatible with OSx86 ( OS X Tiger on Intel hardware) so that I can experiment with that down the road as well (since the illegal torrents of the test version seem to have disappeared… ;)
For now, this doesn’t matter much - I want flexibility and ease of upgrade, since I anticipate frequent changes at this sate. Nothing fancy.
As noted above, I will have to choose something likely to be compatible with OSx86. This page seems like a good place to start.
Since I will be relying on video cards to do the mpeg initial conversion, the CPU doesn’t have to be superfast. Basically, this is going to act as one big file server.
The only consideration is that I will likely end up doing conversion between video formats, and possibly ripping my DVD’s to be able to watch at home. That would benefit from faster speeds… At lot of that won’t be time critical, however, and I am not opposed to running these jobs at night, and in the background… Can always upgrade later…
Being a mac person, this is one area that I don’t know much about anymore…
For this machine, nothing special. I don’t plan on watching video or playing games on this box. Ideally, it will become a headless server once it’s configured, and I can ssh in to do whatever I need to do.
Later, if I want to run OSx86, I will need a better quality video card.
I guess more is always better, but again, this box will primarily be a file server, and will run the MythTV backend. Again, however, extra RAM will help when converting video formats. I figure 1 gig at most would be more than sufficient.
I figure one 200–250 gig drive would be a good start. I’m not sure how I will partition it, but there are a few suggestions out there. I will be using this storage space to store my music collection, recorded television, and any archived video in a variety of formats. I will also likely end up using it as a general purpose backup server as well. We’ll see.
I need to look further into LVM - it sounds as if this would allow me to have a big data partition, that could then be extended when I buy a second drive, without wiping my other data. That would be ideal
Will definitely need a CD for software installation. It would also be nice to be able to use this box to rip any CD’s I buy (though I would likely just use iTunes). It could also be nice to be able to rip DVD’s, but that I can do on the mac as well.
It would be nice to be able to burn DVD’s, but again, I can use my powerbook to do that.
I’ll probably just start with the cheapest drive I find, and upgrade later if I need burning features.
Ethernet is a definite must. I expect that this box will sit close to my wireless base station, so I shouldn’t need wifi. But that is a definite possibility down the road when I move. That can be added later.
I need a USB keyboard and mouse to dedicate to this machine, at least during the setup phase. Since I anticipate building a (diskless?) box down the road to act as a set-top interface, a bluetooth setup might be nice to make it more useful down the road…