Originally Posted by sbwinter2
I am trying to compare other DVRs and here is what I have found as major losses:
Moxi - I have only just learned about the Moxi which is ridiculously expensive up front and gets so-so reviews. Another aspect they consider a plus, but I do not is that it has three tuners, so you can record three shows at a time and then stream to the non-dvr boxes in other rooms. I don't like this because if that box goes down, you are left with nothing. I have three ReplayTVs so if something happens to one, I have others. Or if I want to record the exact same shows on two at the same time (which I have only done as a backup in case something weird happened with one unit - it happens), I can. I don't think you can record the same channel at the same time with multi-tuner units. I haven't looked into other specs because they are just too expensive.
Tivo - I am considering a friend's Series 3 HD (and then would have to get a second one). While it takes a cable card instead of IR blaster, that is cheaper for rental, but can't get on-demand. It does have two tuners so has dual line buffering (get a buffer for both tuners) and can record two shows at the same time (diff channels). The interface is inferior to RTV, but workable.
The major losses are buffers - only 30 minutes live buffer which means I cannot just set the unit on a channel, watch another show at the same time on another video in, and then go back to the Tivo and go back an hour or two and watch that show delayed so I can skip commercials. I do this ALL of the time. I also sometimes just leave RTV on a channel that has a movie and then go back 6 or 8 hours to watch it later on - I don't have to record everything.
Another buffer loss is adding extra time. You can only add up to 10 minutes prior to scheduled start and only 2 hours after and end. I have scheduled shows and wanted 30 minutes prior so I don't have to schedule two shows an experience the interruption when the recording changes. And I have chosen a show and added three hours (and with RTV, you can add as much space as you have) to I can just record all four episodes in one stream.
Record first run and repeats on the HD units apparently have some weird thing about not recording anything that was already recorded less than 28 days ago. With RTV, it just records everything if you tell it to.
Newer Tivos only have one output and no inputs. You don't stream between the units, you transfer the show - which is just not the same and requires space on the second unit. Certain shows are protected from download.
Tivos are expensive to run - $20/mo with commitment (or else pay cancellation fee) or $500 "lifetime." So get a used one with lifetime. Apparently if you have to get it fixed, it costs twice as much as it did for RTVs.
Comcast DVR - Proclaimed worst interface of the three, but is familiar if you have the regular cable box. Also dual-tuner. Can't download shows. Most can't stream (there is the DVR Anywhere model/setup though). Only one output and no inputs. The buffer is much better than Tivo - up to 90 minutes for digital channels (less for HD), but much less than RTV. The recording extension allows up to 15 minutes prior to 2 hours after (still not so good).
Monthly cost only, but if something is wrong, you just exchange it or upgrade instantly. Like the Tivo, you can program it from the internet (which was taken away from RTV a few years ago). Your HD size is limited by what they offer.
I am not considering Windows Media Center, at least not yet. The costs would be too substantial for me to build a good system.
So, in conclusion, I am very spoiled by having the large buffer. In fact, I intentionally leave lots of space on my hard drives so that I can buffer whatever I need to. I also stream all of the time and download shows that I cannot buy (like from PBS). I also have PIP on my TV, so two tuners in different electronics are needed, which means that if I got a Tivo or Comcast DVR, I would still need to keep one regular cable box. I also prefer the RTV interface since it is very straight forward without the fluff.
Hope this helps.
I have been running MythTV for a couple years now and though I imagine most of you have heard about it, many probably have never given it a serious look or investigated it beyond its feature set. Since I was a dyed-in-the-wool ReplayTV addict when I started using it (and will keep using my Replays through the end of July I suspect) this might be a good time for me to give it a sort of "review" for the benefit of my ReplayTV brethren looking at the possibility of being cast adrift with no lifeboats in sight. I wasn't sure if I should post this here even though it seemed timely and relevant to the general mood -- if you think I should start a separate thread let me know (please don't suggest moving it to a forum about MythTV -- the whole point was to discuss alternatives for the benefit of ReplayTV users).
MythTV is a mixed bag to be sure. It is beyond feature-rich -- with all of its add-ins it covers a wide variety of media and capabilities but I'm not going to attempt a comprehensive list of functions since that part is easy enough to track down. What isn't so easy is to get an impression of life with MythTV without doing a lot of reading in a lot of different forums, so I will try to tell you how it has worked for me.
First, the quality-level is all over the map. As open-source software without any particular backing except the dedicated developers it runs the gamut between the best aspects of open-source and the worst. It has some features which work so well that I suspect nothing else can touch them (certainly, the scheduler falls in that category -- more on that later). It also has features (particularly, many of the add-ins) which work so poorly, or are so badly conceived and/or constructed, that it is hard to believe that anyone would have spent the time building them. It is being actively developed which is also a double-edged sword. Over time, some things which barely worked have become strong features and areas which had been unstable have become very stable. But, there are also cases where things which used to work great suddenly stop working after loading updates or where someone decides to completely redesign a feature and that feature which I liked just fine before suddenly I'm not so crazy about. Some have advocated that if you have a working installation which you are happy with, turn off updates and just run it. I have never tried that because usually there is something which I am hoping will get fixed or there is a promised feature I am looking forward to and so I deal with the ups and downs.
MythTV is a client-server, distributed architecture which can accommodate both simple systems and massively complex ones. At a minimum, you need a backend and a frontend (they can both be on one machine) where the backend handles the database, the guide data, scheduling, recording, the tuners, file-management, etc. (in other words, most of the heavy-lifting). The front-end is the presentation piece -- the part which connects to your TV or monitor and plays the video, interacts with the user, etc. You can have multiple backends, with one being the master and all others being slaves, and you can configure them to distribute the duties. You can have multiple front ends so that you can stream your video to wherever you have a front end system connected to a TV or monitor.
There are some options for viewing recordings. Besides a MythTV frontend, MythTV will stream to a Upnp device. XBMC, a slick package which generally works much more nicely than the MythTV addins for a lot of the media-viewer stuff, has a pretty good MythTV plugin for watching recorded shows. MythTV also has an option for MythWeb, a browser-based MythTV interface which allows you to handle system maintenance, view and change your schedule, and stream recordings to anywhere you've enabled access. None of the alternatives to MythTV frontend offer all of its features, however. There is now, a limited version of MythTV FrontEnd which runs on Windows but I haven't tried it.
How much hardware do you need? Mostly depends on what you want to do -- if only a little, you can get by with pretty modest hardware, I am told. If you want to do a lot, you probably can't. My main backend runs in a virtual machine (on VirtualBox) on an I7 machine running Windows 7.
Previously, I had the virtual machine hosted on a Linux Box running on an Intel Q6600 quad processor machine. I have two SiliconDust HDHomeRun network-based tuners with two tuners each recording Clear QAM HD off of my cable line. Since MythTV has support for pulling separate signals from multiplexed frequencies, MythTV actually sees my 4 tuners as 8 but can only use one of the additional 4 if it is recording a channel multiplexed on the same frequency as another channel being recorded. My frontend system is probably overkill -- an I5 processor machine with an NVidia GT430 video card. That box has both a frontend and a slave backend. The slave backend is useful because it allows recording to the internal drive so I don't have to have 4 HD feeds all going over the network to the same destination simultaneously (I have a Gigabit network, though the HDHomeRuns only attach at 100Mb/s). I have something like 4TB of storage space distributed over three computers and connected by NFS. I have had 4 HD feeds recording at once while watching a recorded HD program and it usually works fine, but there have been, on rare occasions, cases of I/O overruns (though I think it was mainly due to some poor choices for NFS mount parameters). My first frontend unit (an Intel Core 2 Duo machine with an NVidia 8500GT videocard) died on me, but when it was running I had a Hauppauge PVR1500 card with both a digital QAM tuner and an analog tuner which I hooked to the output of my cablebox. I didn't move that tuner over to the new machine but given that I am losing my ReplayTVs, I guess I should do that so I can continue to record at least one cable channel.
First of all, there's that fantastic scheduler. One can choose just about any recording criteria imaginable -- record show once a week on this channel; record anytime on any channel; record once a day on this channel; Record just this showing; Record one episode anytime; etc. If you want to get more specific you can create special recording rules which use SQL filters on the database to pick shows (while you don't need to know SQL, some knowledge of SQL does help). There are various "built-in" templates which supply the code for specific situations (e.g. only HD; only widescreen; genre Movie; television series ID; prefer HD; Only on station with callsign xx; Weekdays after 10:00pm; Show title like ; etc.) but once you start combining them, it doesn't always result in valid SQL so one has to clean it up a bit (which is where the SQL knowledge becomes valuable). There are all kinds of record options (e.g. new shows only; skip old episodes; prefer tuner xx; record with priority +5; look for duplicates in recorded shows only; look for duplicates in recorded shows and previous recordings; etc.). There are also all kinds of storage options (e.g. autoexpire; keep at most 5 episodes; store in storage group xx; etc.). And the scheduler is really fast -- it can go through a huge number of rules and pick an optimal schedule (minimum number of conflicts) in a matter of seconds. You can prioritize recording rules to ensure that your favorite shows will win conflicts (and the priority rules also have an effect on autoexpiration order but how priority works there isn't as clear to me as it is in recording). Conflict resolution isn't always perfect. I have found that, at times, I can eliminate a conflict by tweaking priority numbers -- it's kind of cool increasing the priority on an item by 5 and seeing the scheduler reschedule 10 shows to alternate times or different tuners and suddenly find a spot to record that show which it said was a conflict, but it isn't always clear why I had to change a priority to get it to make that change. You can also prioritize tuners, channels, and using those custom record filters, almost anything else.
You can add as much time to the front or back of a recording as you like and it will flexibly obey that directive or ignore it if necessary to record back to back shows. You can also have it start a recording late and/or end early (negative padding).
Recording and playback overall works well, but it doesn't handle file glitches (i.e. places where the recording stream had problems, like dropped data) quite as well as Replay -- I have had more issues than I ever had with ReplayTV with things like the picture freezing up requiring that I kill the frontend process and restart it or sometimes even causing crashes of the frontend process. Of course, that might be because it is recording a digital stream rather than an analog one. Fast forward and rewind doesn't work as smoothly as on ReplayTV but I find it acceptable most of the time.
I have always found watching live-TV to be somewhat problematic for some reason -- more prone to dropped frames and other glitches, but I almost never watch live-TV. Oddly enough, if I just record the program and watch the program while recording is in progress it usually works just fine.
Commercial skip is a standard feature and overall it appears about as accurate as commercial skip in ReplayTV.
There are addins for editing a recorded show and for creating a basic DVD of a recorded show and they are pretty slick. The DVD authoring tool doesn't offer much in the way of bells and whistles (and has a bug or two) but allows one to assemble a DVD title pretty rapidly. The editor has the most sensible user-interface I have encountered for simple editing. If you are trying to create a production-quality piece (e.g. with fades, dissolves, etc.) you're going to need a professional editor. If you just want to zip quickly through the file and cut out commercials or trim any extra from the front and back of the show, the built-in editor will get you there quickly. One nice touch -- you can load the automatically-generated commercial-skip markers into the editor as a cut-list to use as-is or to adjust and expand upon.
There is support for customizing operation in a lot of different ways such as hooks for running a user job after a recording finishes. Starting with version 0.23 they added the ability to launch scripts whenever one of a number of system events occur such as a recording starting, or playback being paused, or the backend is being shut down, etc. There are also custom keypress events to allow the user to launch a script by pressing a key -- one can even signal an event from a command line, so an event handler could also raise an event (or an independent program could use it as a simple way to interact with MythTV).
Most of the add-ins like for playing music files or viewing photographs, etc., are poorly done and not really worth the effort, IMHO.
MythTV runs on Linux which is nice because the OS is therefore free, but if you are not familiar with Linux, you will a have to learn at least enough to maintain your system.
Since there is no support for DRM, the only way you would ever be able to record anything like a premium cable channel would be through a cable box, possibly using something like Hauppauge's HD PVR.
Learning how to configure MythTV can seem like the stuff of nightmares. There are a million options and many are poorly documented or the best documentation is unofficial and you might soon discover, completely out of date.
You need to be vigilant to not allow your recorded-program storage to become full because MythTV does not handle the situation very gracefully (though its gotten better) -- I frequently wish that they had implemented something like ReplayTV's reserved feature (technically, you can keep yourself covered with autoexpire but it still requires some vigilance).
It might be easy to get caught up in the possibilities and spend way too much money before you know it, building your dream system "because you can".
The intoxication of having all of that power at your fingertips will likely be interrupted with frequent reality checks in the form of frustrations like, "gee, everything's been humming along great but suddenly, it seems like everything that recorded on this tuner in the last five days has no actual recording file".
Being open-source, you have to rely on, for support, those volunteers who have so generously donated their time and effort that it is hard to reconcile the anger and frustration you might feel when you have searched and searched for an answer for why something keeps failing only to have one of the gurus respond with something like, "Well, of course it isn't working -- you never unchecked the 'use FooBarX syncing' option on screen 65 of the configuration procedure and FooBarX only works with video cards with support for 'screen frazzling' which your model doesn't -- you'd have known that if you would have run the derburgle command with the -v option."
Then, there is that stability issue I mentioned earlier . . . .
Bottom-line, MythTV is a heck of a lot of great stuff for free, but it requires a pioneer-spirit -- there's no neat package to buy off-the-shelf and carry home. There's a lot to learn though packages like MythBuntu (which is how I started) or KnoppMyth (haven't used it but I have heard good things) make it a little easier to get started. And for those who have done such great things for the ReplayTV community with projects like Wirns and IVSMagic, if you wanted to continue in that spirit of generosity and apply that sort of creative and innovative thinking in an area where you would have more control and greater potential, I'm sure that the MythTV community would love to have you onboard.