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Building A Low-Budget TiVo Substitute?

timothy posted more than 10 years ago | from the this-is-my-anything-box dept.

Television 743

thepuma writes "Since I'm cheap, and don't want to pay monthly fees to Tivo, I am researching building my own low-budget Personal Video Recorder and player. Free software options include Freevo and MythTV. Hardware options are the main cost factor. How would you go about building the perfect low-budget PVR?" We've looked at similar questions before, but the guts of such a system (both hardware and software) have been improving -- MythTV, for instance, now supports Hauppauge's PVR-350 card. How would you build a system like this now?

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Somewhere close to the top (-1, Offtopic)

HardwareLust (454846) | more than 10 years ago | (#7683034)

Somewhat near the fp? Maybe?

I'd just buy one (-1, Insightful)

CXI (46706) | more than 10 years ago | (#7683041)

I'd just buy a Tivo because it's easier.

Re:I'd just buy one (3, Insightful)

jsonic (458317) | more than 10 years ago | (#7683113)

You also don't need to buy a subscription when buying a tivo. You can purchase just the hardware if you want. Of course not having the program listings and scheduling features kinda defeats the main benefit of PVRs.

To be really useful, a homemade pvr has to solve the problem of obtaining program listings.

Re:I'd just buy one (3, Insightful)

dissy (172727) | more than 10 years ago | (#7683152)

> You also don't need to buy a subscription when buying a tivo. You can purchase
> just the hardware if you want. Of course not having the program listings and
> scheduling features kinda defeats the main benefit of PVRs.

If you plunk down $300 for the hardware, may as well plunk down the $250 for a lifetime subscription as well.

Just pretend the hardware costs $550, but in this way you will have full guide listings and no monthly fee.

Re:I'd just buy one (3, Informative)

tmhsiao (47750) | more than 10 years ago | (#7683189)

Lifetime subs are 300 [] now.

Re:I'd just buy one (5, Informative)

elFarto the 2nd (709099) | more than 10 years ago | (#7683188)

To be really useful, a homemade pvr has to solve the problem of obtaining program listings.

May I direct your attention to this [] .

This is currently what MythTV uses [] .


Re:I'd just buy one (1)

wo1verin3 (473094) | more than 10 years ago | (#7683203)

I've been looking for something TiVoish in Canada and was going to pick up an actual TiVo until I read the following on the TiVo website: []

TiVo service is required and is available for $12.95 per month or $299 for Product Lifetime.

Is that wrong or misleading, you're saying I CAN use the device, with the exception of scheduling or tv guide features...?

Re:I'd just buy one (3, Informative)

SnowDog_2112 (23900) | more than 10 years ago | (#7683270)

Correction. Legally, the series 2 TiVos (all that you can find at your corner TiVo store) all require a subscription to the service.

Old Series 1 TiVos can be used without subscription, as a sort of digital VCR.

Re:I'd just buy one (1)

deanj (519759) | more than 10 years ago | (#7683116)

Especially now that the Tivo can download the program info over the net via wireless adapter on it's USB.

Re:I'd just buy one (3, Interesting)

emases (559783) | more than 10 years ago | (#7683117)

I agree, it's actually not that cheap to build one from scratch. I looked into this a few months ago and found it would cost as much as a Tivo, if not more. Asus Pundit ~200 CPU ~150 RAM ~100 Hard Drive ~100 PVR card ~200 Total ~750

Re:I'd just buy one (1)

princewally (699307) | more than 10 years ago | (#7683185)

But, you would get other benefits for building one yourself.

You can play video games, surf the net, watch divx, etc.

Also, if you watch ebay, you can find most of the parts cheaper than retail.

sure just buy a tivo if all you want is a PVR... (2, Interesting)

*weasel (174362) | more than 10 years ago | (#7683260)

yeah, if all you want to do is PVR, then just buying a TiVO makes sense. But if you really want a convergence device to tie your tv into the network -- tivo can't compete.

with a roll-your-own, you could add all sorts of functionality:
. streaming non-mpeg2 video clips from across the network
. listening to your mp3 collection on your living-room sound system
. watching a slideshow of digicam vacation pics . firing up an emulator and enjoying some pong
. actually web browsing from a fully functional machine (add wireless keyboard for full effect)...

Tivo is fine functionality, but there's no reason to stop there. not when Tivo + lifetime subscription ~= cost of rolling your own

Re:I'd just buy one (1)

kinzillah (662884) | more than 10 years ago | (#7683126)

Unfortunatly, with the changes tivo is making, you'll have less control over your ability to hack it and add new features. They just recently started cracking down on backup images for people upgrading hard drives. With this happening, I think it would be worthwhile to roll my own with off the shelf hardware and linux.

Re:I'd just buy one (2, Insightful)

aborchers (471342) | more than 10 years ago | (#7683130)

I'd just buy a Tivo because it's easier.

If you, and the people who think this is insightful, can't see the difference between a Tivo (subscription required, arbitrary set of limitations decided on by the company) and a homemade PVR with any media playback/record capability you can put into a PC, then you've certainly made a wise choice. It's also easier to buy a standalone CD-copier than to deal with a CD-burner and various software, but it's not the same!

Now maybe people with something substantial to add to the discussion of homemade PVRs can post...

Re:I'd just buy one (0, Troll)

CXI (46706) | more than 10 years ago | (#7683272)

Now maybe people with something substantial to add to the discussion of homemade PVRs can post...

Dear PVR Zealot,
The guy requested a way to make exactly a Tivo but without paying for it. The answer to that question is you can't without spending more in time and money than just buying one. He didn't ask how to make a cool hacky-thing that will spend a lot of time and money for something that isn't a Tivo. For instance, he would be well informed to know:

- The free listing data available might not be as accurate as Tivo's (perhaps it's better, he should check).
- Does the homebrew PVR change channels for him? Did he even think of that? Is he going to be able to hack an infrared system up or rewire his cable box?
- Does he have satellite TV? If so there are options that can be directly integrated into the system he already has.

Now, go play with your homebrew PVR, while the rest of us uninformed people actually watch TV convieniently, without spending any extra time or money to do so in a "cool" fashion.

Re:I'd just buy one (1)

Degrees (220395) | more than 10 years ago | (#7683169)

I agree. Actually - I bought a Replay. Then I bought another, it was so good. The company takes care of bug fixes, and has a way of downloading them automatically. I don't see the value in building my own appliances, unless that were my main hobby (which it isn't).

Re:I'd just buy one (1)

Jaysyn (203771) | more than 10 years ago | (#7683191)

So is using P2P. I mean it's still time-shifting right?


Re:I'd just buy one (1)

f0rtytw0 (446153) | more than 10 years ago | (#7683230)

Tivo is certainly easier and cheaper if you would have to buy new hardware. However its missing one feature that is keeping me from buying it. From what I've seen there is no way to have a tivo on your home and lan have other computers on that network access it. This would be a great feature especially at my apartment where we can only get cable in one room. If anyone knows a cheap and easy solution I'm all ears.

first post (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7683045)

First post

Sage TV (-1, Informative)

BadCable (721457) | more than 10 years ago | (#7683048)

Currently, I'm using SageTV [] It's a PC based DVR software package. With it, I can currently;

- Record two standard def stations, and a high def station at the same time while watching a fourth video of any type. (Obviously, this requires having two tuners and an HDTV tuner.)
- Record standard TV to MPEG-2, MPEG-1, or just about any other format. This makes it easier to make VCDs, DVDs, or just play the program back on a standard PC.
- Playback using Dscalar to deinterlace the video.
- Play DVDs
- Play DivX
- Record shows as favorites (just like season passes) or let SageTV record things based on my past viewing habits (much like tivo's suggestions only I don't have to bother with thumbs up and down buttons)
- Do all of the above with an integrated schedule, which is free. No need to pay a monthly fee.
- Play and manage my MP3 library (I think you can do ogg, ape, etc. with some tweaks to the config)
- Stream video and audio to another PC over my LAN.

I'm sure I'm missing much more. This thing does way more than any tivo, even a hacked tivo, and it's constantly being expanded. It surpasses TiVo and ReplyTV in every way. I've even found it to be more flexible than MythTV and Showstopper (though they do have a few benefits in some areas.)


Subject Line Troll (581198) | more than 10 years ago | (#7683087)


Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7683244)

then please mod accordingly

Re:Sage TV (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7683253)

This is Windows garbage, and not really usefull to any of us with a conscience. We're looking for real solutions, not proprietary windows crap!

Just buy a vcr (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7683054)

and some tapes.

Re:Just buy a vcr (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7683104)

Seriously, what's wrong with a VCR? You can even record the tapes digitally

Re:Just buy a vcr (4, Insightful)

Cromac (610264) | more than 10 years ago | (#7683224)

Seriously, what's wrong with a VCR? You can even record the tapes digitally

Compared to a Tivo: You have to switch tapes They only hold 8 hours You have to rewind them It's a pain to find that 30 min show in the middle of the tape They're louder (at least mine is) when FF and Rewinding Tivo has automatic scheduling

I'm sure there are other advantages, those are just off the top of my head.

Tapes have the advantage of being portable and everywhere so you can take what you recorded to your buddies house, but overall Tivo or some other similar DVR blows the VCR away.

I have a Myth box (5, Informative)

SirTwitchALot (576315) | more than 10 years ago | (#7683056)

I use myth (mainly because it supports live tv while freevo doesn't.) It's a decent program, but still somewhat buggy. I find it crashes on occasion, and compiling can be a nightmare at times. With a fast processor (I have an Athlon XP1800) you can easily encode and decode without having to use a hardware mpeg card. The setup process is somewhat painful, and sometimes confusing. I think Myth is great for a DIY'er, but not ready for a consumer solution.

Re:I have a Myth box (1)

radixvir (659331) | more than 10 years ago | (#7683128)

ya mine sometimes gets stuck in a menu and i cant back out using escape. end up killing the process.

Why not (2, Interesting)

Pingular (670773) | more than 10 years ago | (#7683060)

try hacking together a more advanced version of TVPlus?

This Month's Linux Journal... (4, Informative)

KendyForTheState (686496) | more than 10 years ago | (#7683062)

...has a great article on just this subject.

Low Budget TIVO (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7683064)

Don't they call those a VCR?

Go to this site :-) (3, Informative)

atari2600 (545988) | more than 10 years ago | (#7683067)

TV Cards []

Pretty helpful site for beginners.

Don't do it for cost (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7683068)

Don't try to use one of these projects because you think it will be cheaper.

If you want to do it because you think there are other benefits, or because you like to tinker, go right ahead.

You will spend more than the cost of a Tivo plus lifetime service by the time you are done, though.

A cheapskate and you want to use a PC? (3, Insightful)

Tony Hoyle (11698) | more than 10 years ago | (#7683069)

Hmm... PC $600 + about a month configuring it to work as a PVR.
Tivo + Lifetime sub $300-$400

I know which I'd go for...

Re:A cheapskate and you want to use a PC? (1)

jrockway (229604) | more than 10 years ago | (#7683164)

Uh, I have an Athlon 3000+ with 1G of RAM that I paid $600 for. Surely a Celeron and 256M would suffice. So I'd say $200 for a nice PVR-Computer. That's less than $400. Hell, you could get TWO for the same price as a Tivo.

Re:A cheapskate and you want to use a PC? (1)

thuh Freak (725126) | more than 10 years ago | (#7683205)

pc which has already paid for itself through years of service, eduation and pr0n access (read: service, eduation). add a ~200 piece of hdwr + free software onto the already wonderful computer.

result: realize that the time it took to research, find, play with, install, and eventually setup the diy box. now the tivo looks cheaper. factor in the fact that it will be a fun project: scale looks a bit more balanced.

Re:A cheapskate and you want to use a PC? (1)

garcia (6573) | more than 10 years ago | (#7683258)

Lifetime is a long time. I am guaranteed that my PC's service will at least last for as long as the hardware holds up and the software is still backed up somewhere in my house.

I just don't trust that Tivo will be around for my lifetime.

It will be tough (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7683074)

It is tough to build a good one for cheaper than a TiVO. To build a PVR, you basically have to build a computer. To build a computer with a TV card in it, you will probably need more than $300. You'll need a large hard drive and a decent processor (1.6Ghz or higher is my guess). You can probably skip out on getting a dvd drive and cd drive if you don't them, so that might help the cost a little.

Budget (5, Interesting)

Teckla (630646) | more than 10 years ago | (#7683077)

If budget is important, consider estimating electricity costs in a do-it-yourself solution. You might be surprised how much money worth of electricity a PC can use in just a year.

As an example, I've seen people "save money" by reusing old PC's as firewalls instead of buying a cheap $50 unit that does the same job. They're spending more money in electricity than it would have cost to buy the dedicated unit.


how much? (1)

Wakkow (52585) | more than 10 years ago | (#7683165)

Out of curiosity, how much does a PC-based server cost to run? Say there's no monitor plugged in and it idles most of the time.. Roughly what does that come out to per month?

Simple math, but how much of the 300 watts is used for an idling PC, and what's the average cost per kwh?

Re:how much? (1)

AmigaAvenger (210519) | more than 10 years ago | (#7683266)

about $5 to $7/month in my area at least. My electricity bill is consistent enough I can see exactly if a computer was running for a particular month. (no monitor, AMD machines with one or two hard drives)

Re:Budget (1)

Coaster-Sj (614973) | more than 10 years ago | (#7683210)

Well that may be true but how much do you learn from slapping in a little linksys router with the default config and letting it go. Building a router yourself is much more involved and may actually require thinking. Also the cost is spread out over a longer period paying for the electricity. Although if somehow your not the one paying for the electricity who cares.

Re:Budget (1)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 10 years ago | (#7683214)

As an example, I've seen people "save money" by reusing old PC's as firewalls instead of buying a cheap $50 unit that does the same job. They're spending more money in electricity than it would have cost to buy the dedicated unit.

A fair enough point. But if I may, you're assuming that the firewall is ONLY going to be a firewall. Many of us use these old machines as combination firewall, NAT, FTP server, Web Server, CVS server, DHCP server, etc. That old PC can provide a very powerful internet front end and home collaboration point that a $50 box just can't do.

By the same token, a DIY PVR has advantages in areas such as network streaming and cool plugins like MAME. Not to mention that you can now change things you don't like. For example, let's say I don't like the way TIVO's "record show" feature works. With a DIY model, I might scrape the TV Guide site and match records based on a regular expression. As a Sci-Fi buff, it would be great to record any shows with the name "Space" in it. And if I don't like the results (e.g. Trading Spaces), I can tweak the filters to my liking.

The one pitfall for homebrew PVRs... (2, Informative)

Zanguinar (60223) | more than 10 years ago | (#7683082)

The only reason I'm still trying to keep my old Panasonic Showstopper ReplavTV alive is that MythTV and FreeVo don't yet have the capability to control an external digital cable or DirecTV box. I think there was some project that had rudimentary channel-changing capabilities for DirecTV via serial interface, but I think it was still pretty alpha. As soon as these projects can do that, I'm building a homebrew so I can cancel my land line phone...

Re:The one pitfall for homebrew PVRs... (4, Informative)

strags (209606) | more than 10 years ago | (#7683138)

Sure they do. I am using this functionality on my MythTV box right now.

When MythTV wants to change channel on the cable box, it calls a user-definable external script. I use LIRC [] to emit the IR control codes to switch channels on my General Instruments cable box.

Re:The one pitfall for homebrew PVRs... (2, Informative)

r1ckt3r (302503) | more than 10 years ago | (#7683148)

Uh, you obviously haven't done your homework as MythTV most certainly can control digital cable and satellite boxes via IRblaster for some time now. Not to say it's as simple as other solutions, but please don't spread false data.

Re:The one pitfall for homebrew PVRs... (1, Informative)

Wehesheit (555256) | more than 10 years ago | (#7683150)

I'm in the exact same boat. I don't want to buy a DirecTivo but I need a box that can change my DTV channels.

Re:The one pitfall for homebrew PVRs... (1)

deque_alpha (257777) | more than 10 years ago | (#7683154)

Try doing it the other way. Have your Direct TV box control the PVR with the auto-tune/auto VCR function. It seems pretty simple so far, I am about 1/3 of the way through my project doing exactly this.

Re:The one pitfall for homebrew PVRs... (2, Informative)

homerules (688184) | more than 10 years ago | (#7683158)

There is support for external channel changing in lirc and is used by many people. It can be both serial or IR blaster.

Simple Solution... (1)

MoeMoe (659154) | more than 10 years ago | (#7683083)

How very ironic... I just bought an ATI All In Wonder 7500 for the exact same intention (and late night frag sessions ofcourse)... Just get a video card with a built-in TV tuner... The one I bought was under $100!!!!

Re:Simple Solution... (1)

KUHurdler (584689) | more than 10 years ago | (#7683136)

I have an AIW 7500. The word I would most use to describe it is: Disappointing

Depends on how you receive listings, surely? (1)

Ed Avis (5917) | more than 10 years ago | (#7683090)

The poster didn't state what country he is in, although it is probably one where Tivo is marketed. Doesn't the hardware to get depend strongly on how you receive TV listings? For analogue listings, both demodulation (VHF / UHF) and decoding the picture (NTSC / PAL / SECAM) will require different hardware, though I hope it would be comparable in price.

Or what if digital television is available where you live? Do you want to record the digital signals directly to disk? This is the classiest way to do it but it might just make the hardware _cheaper_, since no real-time video encoding is needed (only decoding).

From LinuxToday (1)

Pingular (670773) | more than 10 years ago | (#7683091)

March 2003 [] . EXACTLY the same thing.

Re:From LinuxToday (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7683181)

...Because we all know that nothing changes in 9 months.

Bulding ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7683094)

Hello? Spell checker anyone?

Next article: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7683095)

Ask slashdot: Bulding a better spellchecker.

buy a fucking tivo (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7683098)

slashbot readers like to say they support open source, want linux to rule the world, etc, but then when a company does use linux for a cool, innovative device, it's too much money, wah wah wah.

Get a job or something.

Guide Information (4, Interesting)

Kentamanos (320208) | more than 10 years ago | (#7683099)

Isn't the biggest problem STILL programming guide information? Don't things like XMLTV use web sites that sometimes block IP's from using them?

Re:Guide Information (2, Interesting)

Tony Hoyle (11698) | more than 10 years ago | (#7683180)

It depends - I think some providers support xmltv directly.

The UK version of xmltv is pretty sucky - it's missing half the channels and there's no series information on most of them (I only managed to get 4 channels out of 30). There's a program to strip the Radio Times website of listings but it takes hours (and isn't very friendly to the website!).

You can program a Tivo using xmltv data, although the people who know how to do it (tivocanada) are pretty tight lipped about how (if you're lucky you might be able to get someone to leak you the code though).

DirecTivo (5, Informative)

jgordon7 (49263) | more than 10 years ago | (#7683105)

Actually you probably can not get much cheaper than DirecTivo.

If you are a new sub. you can get the DirecTivo for about $50, and with a DirecTivo you only pay $4.99/month for the Tivo service (and that is for the account not the number of boxes). For me in my area DirecTV is MUCH cheaper than cable. Also the quality of a DirecTivo is far superior than any other option available for non-HDTV PVRs. It records the direct MPEG stream no encoded done on the box. Also the DirecTivo can record 2 shows at a time!

Course if you want to do it yourself you can and it would be fun, however it would most likely not be as stable, quality not as good. And you probably wont save much money if you already have cable or directv.

Re:DirecTivo (1)

JVert (578547) | more than 10 years ago | (#7683252)

I'm an existing subscriber and I got one installed for $99.
Directivo has 2 tuners built into the box. So for a sattelite system it is replacing 3 boxes for a homebrew system of the same capabilities. 1 PVR box and 2 tuners. Hardware costs you can't find 2 good PC tv tuners for $100.

Dear Slashdot (4, Funny)

psxndc (105904) | more than 10 years ago | (#7683107)

Can you recommend a low budget system that will likely cost me between $200-$600 between time and money so that I can avoid spending $300 on the easier solution? FWIW, you can use a tivo without paying the monthly fee. I think the monthly fee just let's you access their programming guide and recommendations. I don't own one yet, so I really don't know.


Don't bother (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7683108)

Buy a TIVO. You can get a great deal on one from DirecTV from time to time, $99.00 is what I got mine for.

Then, if you look on EBay you will find that used TIVOs are worth more than you paid for yours.

Hey, there's nothing like enjoying a product and having it be worth more after usage than you paid for it.

Of course, if all you really want to do is sit around, pull your hair out because this or that doesn't work right on your computer, then have fun.

Myself, I'll be watching the game.....

TeeVee schmeevee (0, Offtopic)

Zombierator (694239) | more than 10 years ago | (#7683115)

I'd give up the freaking tube--it wastes precious game-playing hours.

Xbox makes a GREAT frontend. (5, Informative)

ozzmosis (99513) | more than 10 years ago | (#7683120)

I use mythtv, I have 1 backend server with a Hauppauge pvr-250 and a OLD win-tv card in it, it has 1GB of ram, 3x120GB harddisks, and an amd2500+. The two cards allow me to record two shows at once, lets two people on two different frontends watch two different channels, or picture in picture. This computer has more power than mythtv needs, you can use something with alot less power. Especally if you get a hardware tv capture card.

When I am recording off my old win-tv capture card and I am in gnome running mozilla, etc. I can tell a big difference in video quality as when I am not doing anything on the computer. So if you have a slow computer, you want to use X/mozilla/etc, or just want better video quallity get a hardware video capture card (happauge pvr 250/350). A pII 400mhz would do very very well with a pvr 250/350.

My main frontend is a Xbox with gentoo installed. If you have a Xbox and you are as disappointed as I was with the games the xbox is your best bet for a front end for a TV. It "fits" beside the tv, I mean who wants a tower computer beside the tv anyways? Also some guy made a xbox-linux/mythtv [] distro. I haven't tried it but it looks really neat.

My other front end is a laptop with 802.11g card in it. I must say mythtv does QUITE well wireless.

myHTPC (1)

hawks5999 (588198) | more than 10 years ago | (#7683121)


Problem (1)

dissy (172727) | more than 10 years ago | (#7683122)

> How would you go about building the perfect low-budget PVR?

The problem is "perfect" and "low-budget" do not go together.

If you want perfect, do it right and spend the cash, be it for good hardware on your own system, or a pre-built unit.

If you want low-budget, find the cheapest USB video capture device you can, a cheap old video card that does video-out, a remote reader (dont recal if these are serial or usb) so you can use 'misc IR remote control', and spend a few weeks/months coding up all the glue and menuing systems and whatnot you will need.

Look at your cable company (1, Informative)

alen (225700) | more than 10 years ago | (#7683123)

Time Warner is offering a Tivo like service for $8.95 a month. That is $107.40 a year. Compare that with the costs of Tivo and the service or even building and upgrading your own PC to be a DVR. If you upgrade every few years, the Time Warner service is very cost competative and pain free of spending hours trying to configure whatever you build.

Re:Look at your cable company (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7683168)

Yes, but once you record something on the TW service, can I burn it to a CD and trade with my friends ?

The appliance that never was (TiVO Mafia?) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7683124)

Digital recorder for dummies....
I live outside the states, what I want is a stupid appliance for dummies that you can connect to the TV and use it for digital recording programming channel, starting time, duration, etc. Then you can see what you have recorded, erase recordings etc. Just a simple device with two cables and a remote. No PC, cards, software, setups, etc.
But this doesn't exist and I can't really understand why....

Re:The appliance that never was (TiVO Mafia?) (1)

Em Ellel (523581) | more than 10 years ago | (#7683236)


Check out DVD recorders, especially ones with Hard drives. They are not as good as tivo, but do everything you mentioned, plus allow you to dump stuff onto DVD (which until the latest DVD tivo combo, which has no monthly fee for tivo BASIC (no TVGuide)

here some links:

Pioneer Tivo/DVD-R []
DVD Recorder Buying Guide []

Upfront Cost is Hard to Beat (3, Insightful)

mprinkey (1434) | more than 10 years ago | (#7683137)

A cheap Duron, hard drive, case, TV-out capable video card, and TV card is going to probably cost more than a stand-alone Tivo, so you are only saving on the "backend." I like the progress that I have seen in MythTV and Freevo, especially the integrated features like emulators and such. That is the appeal for me to build these type of solutions, not price.

FWIW, I am a DirecTV subscriber and the DirecTivo gives you a lot of functionality that you just can't easily replicate. It stores full quality video from the satellite feed on the hard drive. It also allows you to record two shows at the same time. That makes it well worth the price. Of course, mine has a 120 GB hard drive hacked in to give over 100 hours of storage.

Now I just need to figure out how copy the video from the Tivo. I can ftp and telnet into the system, but I haven't investigated the state of the extraction software lately. One of those projects I need to get to...

not necessarily cost effective (3, Informative)

earlytime (15364) | more than 10 years ago | (#7683146)

If you add all the hardware costs up, you'll pay close to (or more than) the $250 it takes to get a tivo. Then you'll need to find some way to get program listings if you want to schedule recordings based on something besides just channel & date & time.

And the bottom line is, you don't have to pay tivo a monthly anything. Just buy the tivo and don't subscribe to the listings. Or you can buy the lifetime and not deal with monthly payments. Or buy a used tivo(with lifetime service) on ebay and get a deal. Lots of folks are trading up to series2 this way.

I have to admit that the series2 with home media is awesome. Get a $30 usb nic, and you can stream images/audio from the network. There's a sweet *nix program called byrequest ( that lets you serve files without windows, and they claim is will serve video also...

So why don't you go put that in your pipe and... nevermind.

Re:not necessarily cost effective (1)

strags (209606) | more than 10 years ago | (#7683182)

Program listings are readily available through XMLTV. MythTV (and I believe Freevo) are tightly integrated with XMLTV.

Repeat ad Nauseum (3, Funny)

use_compress (627082) | more than 10 years ago | (#7683153)

Mom, can you tape the Simpsons? Mom, can you tape the Simpsons?

Networked (2, Interesting)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 10 years ago | (#7683157)

What you want to look at is not competing with what is there, but do what the future holds. I have a server that is doing VLC and can see ripped DVD's (my own) or listen to music via my computers or via the linux client that I run on the Telly. When KDE 3.2 is out fully, I will be using lirc to handle the dvd's/Music correctly.

How much less expensive really? (1)

Kohath (38547) | more than 10 years ago | (#7683160)

You can buy a ReplayTV with no monthly fee for $499 at They're $399, factory refurbished, on eBay. Probably cheaper other places.

That WinTV card is $175 or so. For the $2-300 difference, you get the computer included. It comes with a decent (not great) remote, and it's all ready to go.

I just did this (5, Informative)

seafoodbuffet (527069) | more than 10 years ago | (#7683163)

I just built a MythTV box recently. Here's a rough breakdown of the components I used:

  • CPU: Athlon XP 2400
  • MB: Some random Gigabyte motherboard, about $60
  • Case: I splurged here and got an HTPC-looking Cooler Master ATC-610
  • Video: GeForce2 MX 440
  • Capture: Hauppage WinTV PVR 250
  • 120MB IDE HD
  • 802.11 wireless card
  • DVD-ROM/CDRW drive
In total, I spent around $700. This is clearly not cheap compared to a TiVo, but I can do a lot of things that a typical TiVo can't and I don't have any service fees to pay. If I really wanted to save money, here's what I would have done:
  • get a cheaper processor, possibly a MiniITX-based CPU/MB combo, the PVR-250 card does on-board MPEG2 encoding so you don't really need much CPU power
  • get a cheap case, mine cost about $100 'cuz I wanted it for looks. You can get a beige one for next to nothing
  • get a cheap optical drive or don't use one. (I wanted to do DVD playback and be able to burn VCDs)
  • don't use wireless networking (run ethernet and use on-board networking)

Re:I just did this (1)

danknight (570145) | more than 10 years ago | (#7683233)

How Much Video can you get on the 120MB Hard Drive ?

Frevo is shakey (2, Informative)

ViolentGreen (704134) | more than 10 years ago | (#7683167)

I saw a review on Frevo. It seemed pretty shadey. It worked, in a kinda-sorta-maybe kind of way. It appeared that it had very strict hardware requirements and was less then reliable. Colors weren't very accurate and the actual quality of the playback was less than steller.

I would suggest doing a LOT of research so you have the right hardware and know what to expect if you do go this route.

TiVo is cheaper -- initially (2, Informative)

Hasufin_Heltain (519982) | more than 10 years ago | (#7683171)

I got my TiVo for about 100 bucks. I use DirecTV and am using a DirecTivo... so for me the cost is pretty much hidden away in the satellite bill. $5/month.

The Tivo works. It's easy and simple.

Worth the cashola. For a DIY'er... go for the HTPC solution but you will end up paying more upfront. You figure what a $100 on the video card... or maybe more and say $350-$400 at a minimum for a PC...... so 500 bucks

The TiVo is cheaper... unless you keep it for over 6.5 years ;) But I understand about the advantages of having an HTPC... but anyways... good luck.

(DirecTV has been running $99 special for series 2 Tivo's for a bit...... and you can always find really good deals on Ebay from legit independents)

For ease of use, the Tivo wins hands down... (2, Informative)

MadBiologist (657155) | more than 10 years ago | (#7683184)

I know your pain, I've heavily investigated this area, I have owned a Panny Showstopper which was a ReplayTV early model, an Ultimate TV from Microsoft, and a standalone Tivo. I've tried software from ATI, Showshifter, and Snapstream for my PC... I plan to attempt the MythTV unit as well in the near future, but nothing has compaired in terms of ease of use, inobtrusiveness, or sheer functionality as my Tivo.

The Tivo's real genius is that it is so blasted easy that trying to copy all of what it does is hard. It's the research that has gone into it that makes it what it is. I also have a Replay 5040 for backup, but if my Tivo died, I'd go out to CCity/BBuy and get one immediately. I've given the Tivo the mom test, and it passed with flying colors. My mother who hates technology and my obsession with gadgets would also replace her tivo should it expires.

I havn't ever had a computer with so few glitches, it's been running along since 8/01 and hasn't been shut off unless the power went out in all that time... and it still works great.

A few caveats, IMHO I've got the best type of Tivo the DVR for DirecTV which is intigrated with my sat service, and has the two tuners for duel recording, and I have upgraded the HDD in my Tivo so I have 80 hrs of storage.

As far as the computer solutions, I think I'd recommend SageTV, but that carries with it the fee involved as well. Whatever way you go, it'll be worth it. I was in a hotel a few nights ago, and was going crazy without that ability to pause, rewind, and skip commercials.



Cost (1)

sirReal.83. (671912) | more than 10 years ago | (#7683187)

"Hardware options are the main cost factor."

Hm. Wow. Really? You sure it's not all the Free Software?

Choose wisely (1)

StealthHunter (597677) | more than 10 years ago | (#7683192)

The comment about tivo being easier is too true. If you want the flexibilty you'll be compiling mythTV (i venture to say that the /. crowd might compile anyway). Which introduces dependancy upon dependancy, required packages, modeles, kernel mods, etc etc. And some pre installed packages with the distro (I used Mandrake 9.2) don't work so you'll have to uninstall and install from a non-mandrake source. RedHat 9 has similar issues as well as Fedora. Research well before sinking into this project. If all you want is the base set though, there are many auto installed packages via urpmi, emerge, rpm, etc. Searh for the package you want then install the OS though, cause a mandrake 9 mythtv package won't run on 9.2. The PVR 350 works, but is built ontop of two beta drivers you'll have to get elsewear and the default mythtv puts video out through the video card not through the capture cards output, so default config must be changed.... ....but really i AM pro MythTV, it's just quite a bit more work than you'd initially think.

If you really want cheap (1)

Hartley1 (634401) | more than 10 years ago | (#7683194)

You can use Bittorrent to get all the shows other have captured...

TV cards are crap!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7683195)

Show me a TV card with a Scart-RGB input and I'll stop saying that. S-Video and Composite Video are not suitable sources for good encoding.

Do you want an appliance or a project? (1)

pyite69 (463042) | more than 10 years ago | (#7683207)

Tivo works very well. I also think it's a good
idea to support companies that use Linux.

Doing your own PVR will be fun, and eventually
will sort of work, but if you just want to plug a
unit in and have it "just work", you should buy
one. DirecTV subsidizes the Tivo cost during
promotions, the unit is $99 and the monthly fee is
like half of what it is on a standalone - plus you
can record two programs at once.

MythTV is great for Gentoo (2)

kanaka (9693) | more than 10 years ago | (#7683208)

If you run Gentoo Linux, then Myth is VERY easy to setup. MythTV itself and all the major plugins have up to date ebuilds (packages).

Good documentation and links on

I recommend a Haupauge WinTV card for your TV tuner.
If the Haupauge card has "PVR" in the title this means it has hardware MPEG encoding. Otherwise, you will need a fairly modern CPU (probably at least 1 GHz).

Dish Network PVR (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7683217)

I recently got a satelite dish from Dish Network and they through in a free PVR. It probably isn't as nice as TIVO, but it does the job. I can pause live TV, schedule recordings and all that good stuff. The only downside to Tivi IMO, is that it isn't as hackable. But I've read about some people who pull the hard drive out of these things to get to the mpeg files stored on them. There is no monthly charge, other than the satellite programming which is already cheaper than cable.

Hardware Requirements: (1)

JBMcB (73720) | more than 10 years ago | (#7683222)

-At least 80GB Hard Drive. $72 for the WD Special Edition.

-TV Card. Cheap WinTV for $80 or the bonzo PVR350 for $200.

-Video Card. Cheapie GeForce/TVO for ~$40, or a nice Matrox GXX for ~$80. (Matrox has the best TV-Out, IMHO)

- Computer. Cheapo Chaintech integrated everything MB w/ Athlon XP 2400 CPU. ~ 256MB DDR. $150.

- Case. Either a plain minitower for ~$50, or a nice HTPC case for $150.

- Remote. The 350PVR comes with one, supported by lirc. Otherwise buy a remote keyboard/mouse for ~$80. Or you can build your own remote.

Most everything else is commodity ($20) CD-ROM drive, or DVD-ROM drive. Floppy if desired.

Not cheaper though worth... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7683225)

Try VDR. I couldn't be happier with it. It is intended to use Digital Terrestrial/Cable or Satellite cards (so you get the Electronic Program Guide direct to your system from the broadcaster). It's an all digital recorder. Lots of plugins allow you to do DivX (via mplayer plugin), MPEG2 streaming, DVD recording of shows provided you have a DVD burner ... etc. LinVDR is a web fronted to program shows or browse the EPG from any browser. Thanks Klaus!!

Why I hate women (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7683232)

Twenty-six things a perfect guy would do,
and other propaganda disseminated by misguided women.

Someone recently sent me an email titled 26 things a perfect guy would do. I thought "hmm, nobody could possibly send me anything so stupid, it can't possibly be as dumb as it sounds." I stand corrected. The email was just as advertised: a wish list of how women supposedly want men to act, as if men in this country weren't already an episode of Friends away from turning into giant walking vaginas.

I never thought I'd ever read anything that would induce my gag reflex so quickly, and this is after having read the details of an anal prolapse that a friend sent me tonight. Here is the abridged list (because the full list might literally cause you to barf on your keyboard, and frankly, it's not worth reading), followed by my response to each "thing" that a "perfect guy would do:"

1. Know how to make you smile when you are down!
When will women realize that they don't live on the set of a romantic comedy? Unless making you smile involves me playing video games while you cook me a steak, you're in for a disappointment. You don't think guys ever feel "down?" The door swings both ways, bitch.

2. Try to secretly smell your hair, but you always notice.
What? Why the hell would I want to smell a woman's hair? It smells bad enough with all the sprays and perfume they use. Enough with the conditioners, sprays, and cream already; that shit makes my eyes water. What the hell is conditioner anyway?

3. Stick up for you, but still respects your independence.
Translation: bail you out when you fail at life, but never bring it up during conversations.

4. Give you the remote control during the game.
This one is inherently stupid because it implies that all guys like to watch "the game." Since I'd rather be shot in the chest with projectile diarrhea than watch "the game," I'll assume the author meant something worthy of watching, such as Ren & Stimpy, in which case you need to put the bitch down if she touches your remote.

5. Come up behind you and put his arms around you.
LAME. Who has time for this? Sounds like something out of a herpes commercial where some lady is rock climbing or doing something else which symbolizes her independence, then out of nowhere she blurts out "I HAVE HERPES." The music gets all serious and you hear a voice over "...there is no cure," cue inspirational music "but treatment is available." Then it cuts to a shot of the bitch on a beach and a guy runs up behind her and puts his arms around her. Good job dumbass, you're dating a skank with herpes.

6. Play with your hair.
Again with the hair? Women never play with the hair on my back, why the double standard?

7. His hands always find yours.
This is one of those things women read and say "AWW HOW ROMANTIC." I have news for you: holding hands is stupid. Women don't know the first thing about being romantic. Only lesbians hold hands anyway; allow me to explain. The only time it's acceptable to hold hands with anyone is if you're at a peace vigil. Guys don't go to peace vigils, period. If you do, you have to surrender your balls and get a sex transplant because you're a bitch; in either case, you're a woman, and when two women hold hands it can only lead to one thing as far as I'm concerned.

8. Be cute when he really wants something.
Bullshit. When I want something, I yell. If she can't hear me in the kitchen, sometimes I'll threaten beatings if I'm sober.

9. Offer you plenty of massages.
For your boobs maybe. I happen to have the uncanny ability to massage breasts. With my mouth.

10. Dance with you, even if he feels like a dork.
Let's face it: there are few things in this world more stupid than dancing. Except break dancing, which pirates and lumber jacks would agree is awesome. Other than that, dancing makes me envy cripples.

11. React so cutely when you hit him and it actually hurts.
See, this is what pisses me off about women: they expect special treatment at their discretion. They want equal rights, equal pay, and equal treatment for everything EXCEPT when it comes to shit like this, then they want you to "react cutely" instead of, say, putting them in a head lock and making them eat ants and/or spiders while you give them carpet burn. Why don't women react "cutely" when men hit them for a change? Oops, I forgot, that's domestic abuse.

12. Drive 5 hours just to see you for 1.
Any guy who would drive five hours just to see a chick for one is an asshole. If every guy drove around for five hours just to spend one with their girlfriend, we'd fill up the air with so much pollution that we'd all choke on the exhaust, get cancer, and then bake under the sun while our lungs rupture and we slowly die from internal bleeding.

13. Stare at you.
You stupid attention seeking whore, just buy the bitch a mirror, because apparently she thinks that you don't have anything better to do than to sit around and stare at her. If women ran the world, we'd still be searching for the wheel.

14. Call for no reason.
Oops, this one belongs on the list of "Twenty-six things women do that piss men off because they need to fill their otherwise vapid lives with something to make them feel like they have a purpose for existing as they eventually realize that they're pissing their youth away on stupid bullshit like fashion trends."

I can't go on, I'm going to go do something less painful like stick my dick in the oven.

I looked at this a while ago, not for cost... (1)

Osrin (599427) | more than 10 years ago | (#7683238)

... but for functionality reasons. I figured (in the spirit of things) that I could do a better job than TiVo by choosing my own components, choosing the functionality I wanted and selecting an interface that worked best for my family.

In the end I dotted 3 TiVos around the house. The work involved in integrating the various components and getting them to work in a way that my wife is happy with was prohibitive.

If I was a student, living in an apartment, and just wanted simple PVR functionality then I'd look long and hard at Freevo and MythTV again.

For the $700 that I spent on each of the TiVos (including lifetime subs) I'm not sure that the functionality/interface/simplicity can be beaten.

This arguement does not really need to be run through again until one of the main stream vendors (or OSS projects) has clean support for HDTV, then the playing field has the potential to change again.

I'll be a heritic and put my money on Microsoft being first to the post, the hardware platform that they have truly sucks for their Media Center, a full PC is overkill... when you start to need real storage and memory to clear the HDTV requirement then they're starting in the right place, they just need to get the software right. ;)

Two words (1)

geeveees (690232) | more than 10 years ago | (#7683240)

VIA Epia!

These are mini-itx, they kick ass! The C3 outputs like 12 watts while an athlon xp outputs around 74 watts... VIA is the way to go for a PVR.

I'd advise to check out Transmeta too, though I don't know a lot about their CPU's.

Channel listings with no fee (1)

kanaka (9693) | more than 10 years ago | (#7683242)

One possitive about MythTV as opposed to TiVo is that with MythTV and I assume Freevo, you don't have to pay the montly subscription to get channel listings because MythTV processes the listings from free sites online.

Not really cost effective... (3, Insightful)

mjh (57755) | more than 10 years ago | (#7683246)

I can see getting a lot of geek satisfaction out of building one of these things, but to use it as a day-in/day-out DVR, I don't think it makes a lot of financial sense. First thing is that it's expensive. A TiVo with a lifetime subscription costs about $500. The WinTV-PVR 350 card alone is most of the cost of the TiVo hardware. [] I have yet to see an example of building one of these things for that low of a price.

Second, if you've got DirecTV, then there's no DVR that you can build that's going to do as good of a job of capturing the signal as the DirecTV DVR w/TiVo (DTiVo). The DTiVo simply copies the already MPEG encoded stream that DirecTV sends. Thus the DTiVo doesn't need an expensive (and relatively low quality) hardware MPEG encoder. Which means that the DTiVo can be found for serious cheap, [] sometimes even for free. [] Assuming that a homebrew DVR costs about $800 to build, you could get a free DTiVo and put the $800 towards 13 yrs 4 mos worth of monthly fees.

Still it sounds like a fun project. But it seems like you'd be paying for the entertainment of putting it together. Not for the low cost of the DVR.

webvcrplus and players (1)

Storm (2856) | more than 10 years ago | (#7683257)

I have had pretty good luck using the following tools/apps:

webvcrplus [] for scheduling/recording, mplayer [] for playback, avidemux [] for commercial removal, mencoder for postprocessing (deinterlacing, audio syncing, etc.), and transcode [] with DVD::Rip [] for backing up DVDs.

My primary goal for this is to make backup copies of media for when I travel. When I watch live TV on my computer, I use TVTime [] . I am looking more into something like MythTV, because of the possibility of streaming content, and the fact that it is getting toward the point of being able to remove commercials on the fly.

That said, I have been very happy with my current configuration. Webvcrplus works like a charm, downloading listings through xmltv and scheduling them for recording.

Aside from the usual responses... (1)

tmhsiao (47750) | more than 10 years ago | (#7683263)

Pioneer's new DVD Recorder with TiVo [] allows you to use the PVR functions of the TiVo without paying a monthly fee. Of course, you don't get the Season Passes, Wishlists, or Home Media Option, etc, but you do get digital recording, no tapes, 3 days of guide data, and a DVD-Recorder (a new level of service called "TiVo Basic"). All this for about the price of a mid-range PC (900 dollars or so).

You can upgrade to the actual service if you so desire.

Why I love my MythTV (4, Informative)

strags (209606) | more than 10 years ago | (#7683268)

It took a bit of work to get going, and I probably spent a total of about $500-$600.


There is no subscription fee - TV listings are downloaded via XMLTV.
I can store CDs and DVDs on the HD.
I can run multiple front-ends, enabling me to watch TV/recordings on another machine on the network.
I can update recording settings through a very friendly HTTP interface.
I can extract and re-encode recorded shows.

In addition, people have written lots of groovy addons, including:
A MAME frontend
A CallerID module (when the phone rings, callerid information is displayed onscreen!)
A weather report module

The possibilities are endless.

I'd buy a Tivo because it's cheaper. (1)

Moderation abuser (184013) | more than 10 years ago | (#7683276)

Dedicated PC + TV card + hours of shit fucking about with half written software to get something which almost but doesn't quite work in a very basic way but isn't anything like as sophisticated.


A Tivo + lifetime subscription which "Just fucking works"...


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