Broadcast flag goes into effect 7-1-05
July 6, 2004 9:32 AM   Subscribe

Build your own PVR. Why TiVo when you can freevo? A cool little forum for couch potatoes warriors.
posted by WolfDaddy (27 comments total)
To be honest, unless doing this sort of thing rocks your boat it's cheaper, easier and faster to just go out and purchase a Tivo, Sky+ box or one of the other brand names.

For starters you have to purchase a mini-itx system otherwise the thing won't be able to go under the TV, then you need to ensure that it's fanless or very quiet, then you need to buy an IR receiver and install it in such a way that looks good (oops, don't get one that doesn't work under linux otherwise you'll have wasted your money), then you have to install all the drivers (invariably recompiling the kernel), the PVR software (solve dependency hell, various changes between different distributions) and then, once that it all done if you don't have an XMLTV feed for your area (as far as I know, there still isn't one for the UK after Ananova dropped theirs) then you're stuffed.

Having said all that doom and gloom though, if you do get something that works then you've got a pretty powerful system with loads of functionality that you could never hope to get with any of the commercial boxes.

But don't go into this thinking that it'll be easy or a cheap alternative.
posted by ralawrence at 10:15 AM on July 6, 2004

What ralawrence said. You can get a TiVo for $80 now, and unless you don't have a phone line you can get it working within a couple hours of opening the box. You can spend 10 times that on the parts for a Freevo/MythTV box, not counting the time in setting it up.

On the other hand, if there were a MythTV distribution that worked on TiVo hardware, I would install it in a heartbeat.

Also, see the DTV Liberation Front for more
posted by revgeorge at 10:27 AM on July 6, 2004

...thus the distinction between "potato" and "warrior" ralawrence. Not that I'm slamming your caveats; they're on target. However, it is possible to take some of the ideas from the site and mod your pc, for example, rather than building a pvr from scratch. Snapstream r00lz!
posted by WolfDaddy at 10:30 AM on July 6, 2004

posted by vbfg at 10:31 AM on July 6, 2004

Conversely, you can build it yourself, put in as big of a hard drive as you want, share the files with the rest of your home network, avoid Linux on the machine and install Windows with Snapstream, and stream live TV to other PCs over TCP/IP.

It might be a few bucks more at first, but at least you have a little more control and flexibility, and you can avoid the monthly fees.
posted by adampsyche at 10:35 AM on July 6, 2004

Yea, its not really about doing because you cant afford a Tivo. Its for the chip heads who like to put things together or take them apart. :P
posted by xtian at 10:41 AM on July 6, 2004

Great post title.
posted by yerfatma at 10:42 AM on July 6, 2004

It's not the equipment cost that turns most people off, it's the "$12.95+ per month or $299" subscription.
posted by letitrain at 10:45 AM on July 6, 2004

$4.95/mo for me (DTV subscriber). And the hardware comes free.
posted by luser at 11:46 AM on July 6, 2004

They really aren't doing this for some kind of pragmatic benefit, though, or for chipheads. They're doing it to raise awareness of the broadcast flag. All the commercial solutions people have raised in responses are going to be difficult/illegal to use in a year- if you buy a Tivo 365 days from now, it will be legally required to check and see if the networks are allowing you to record any digital content, and if they say no (and you can bet they will on every single piece of content) you won't be able to record it. Given that Tivo and Replay can update firmware over the 'net, you can bet that you'll get 'updates' that add this 'feature' in a year as well. That simple. So, basically, if you want to record HDTV content in a year, you need to start building your own. Don't get complacent. :/
posted by louie at 12:19 PM on July 6, 2004

louie, the broadcast flag stuff is about HDTV signal only, not "any digital content," as you say. See Slate, Will the Broadcast Flag Break Your Tivo?

And the prohibition is not against recording, it's against redistribution. The BF chip in an HDTV Tivo will only affect output from the TiVo via DV or firewire. Specifically, it will only allow analog output through these ports.
posted by luser at 12:39 PM on July 6, 2004

I misunderstood, sorry, by "any digital content" you probably meant HDTV. Buy my point stands -- the BF is not going to affect any TiVo use, whether bought now or in 13 months -- other than the ability to redistribute perfect HDTV copies, which few consumers are going to care about.
posted by luser at 12:45 PM on July 6, 2004

luser: Firewire is digital, and the "D" in "DV" is for "digital," so I don't know what you mean about using them for analog output.
posted by undecided at 12:57 PM on July 6, 2004

Why TiVo? Because TiVo has the best user experience of any PVR. It's so good, I can't compare it to anything else you're familiar with. It will be a tragedy in the annals of GUI history if they go under and that interface is lost.
posted by sudama at 1:09 PM on July 6, 2004

sorry, by analog I meant regular resolution, as opposed to hi-def resolution. Bad word choice.
posted by luser at 1:13 PM on July 6, 2004

One of the advantages of the roll your own PVR is you also get a DVD ripper/ player. Worth the cost of entry by itself to anyone with kids.

Keep in mind that eventually all TV will be HDTV in the same way that all TV is now in colour. The MPAA have publicly stated their goal of closing the analog hole.
posted by Mitheral at 2:41 PM on July 6, 2004

Tivo -- as a service -- isn't available in every country, but it hasn't stopped people importing their own units and getting them going, with program listings downloaded off the intarweb. Just 'cos it's cheap for some people doesn't mean it it is for the whole world.
posted by John Shaft at 3:46 PM on July 6, 2004

I'm in the process of doing this.
Well, by "in the process", I mean that I've bought all the bits, and scratched my head for several hours whilst I try and get MythTV to see my DVB card.

Anyway. A couple of points.
I'm putting this together because my Tivo hasn't got a digital reciever. I'd wait for Tivo to release one with a digital receiver, but they seem to have forgotten that the UK exists.

A desktop PC works just as well as a Mini ITX. I got a snazzy small footprint 700Mhz Compaq jobby off of eBay for a £180.00. With extra bits, (DVB Card, big hard disk, tv-out card) it's cost me about £350.00.

Unless you're working with known hardware, KnoppMyth isn't the best idea. I suggest Knoppix (with the latest kernel, and then build it up from there.
posted by seanyboy at 4:17 PM on July 6, 2004

Not to derail, but I must object to sudama's claims of Tivo superiority. I've used both, and (for me) ReplayTV wins hands down.

While I'm at it, Macs are better than PCs, and vi thumps emacs all day. Nyah.
posted by bhorling at 4:20 PM on July 6, 2004

Actually, as some one involved with Freevo with absolutely no real ideological afflication with Open Source, my motivation for getting involved was purely pragmatic. I would have paid Tivo for service, but they've decided that it's not important to support it in Canada.

That said, it's very easy for my girlfriend and I to use once it's setup, but if you can get a Tivo with the service, you'll be up and running a lot faster.
posted by aubin at 4:43 PM on July 6, 2004

So, is it possible to buy one of those $80 tivos and not get a subscription, but access whatever online database that Freevo users do?
posted by crunchland at 5:58 PM on July 6, 2004

I built one with SnapStream software and a Shuttle XPC case. It cost some money, but it is a very nice setup.

What can I do with it that Tivo can't? I can watch TV shows on my laptop in any room of my home. I can stream music controlling iTunes. I can burn DVDs of my shows for archives. I can put as big of a hard drive I want in. And I can modify it later to make is expandable.
posted by benjh at 8:01 PM on July 6, 2004

I'm seriously looking at doing something like this as well. The problem is that I have NTL, and hell will freeze over before NTL get their arses in gear and release their own PVR. Tivo is only available via ebay, and I don't want to go that route.

The only thing stopping me is the thought of the functionality that such a box will provide. How easy will it be to download TV listings? Will I be able to mark certain shows to "always record", or will I have to individually set each program? That sort of thing.
posted by salmacis at 2:21 AM on July 7, 2004

salmacis. If you're with NTL, then you're probably better off going with a Tivo. I got mine from eBay and it's been fine. You can set yourself up with a new Tivo Account very easily.

I'm not sure about this, but later NTL boxes (Pace 4000 being an example) allow the tiVo to control the Cable Reciever (for changing channel) over a serial or scart connection.
Here for a bit more info.
You'll maybe need to dig round the forums for more information.
posted by seanyboy at 5:04 AM on July 7, 2004

[quote]So, is it possible to buy one of those $80 tivos and not get a subscription, but access whatever online database that Freevo users do?[/quote]

Buy a unit for $80 and hack? That's a fantastic idea, anyone?
posted by xtian at 11:26 AM on July 7, 2004

I have digital cable (Shaw in vancouver, bc).

We get a digital cable box, that is then hooked up to the tv, so the tv is not tuning the channels, the box is.

I dont think tivo would work with a system like this, because the box is doing the tuning. Im I mistaken or is there another system that would work?
posted by Iax at 4:40 PM on July 7, 2004

Tivo will work. Either you plug in a serial cable in the back, or you can use infrared, and tv will send out the same signal your regular remote control does to change the station. It's not absolutely reliable, but it works most of the time.
posted by crunchland at 4:48 PM on July 7, 2004

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