frontend backend software oh my! - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 10 Old 03-24-2014, 01:39 PM - Thread Starter
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I recently dove into figuring out ways to get rid of the 4 comcast rental boxes I have and switch to an HTPC whole home setup. There are so many software options to choose from that I am completely lost. MythTV, XBMC, WMC, openelec, mediabrowser, etc etc etc.

Top priority is smoothly working live TV in every room along with DVR functionality. If possible, I would also like to be able to use the same setup to stream all of my saved media (music, pictures, etc). I will most likely be using HDHR prime and HDHR plus for tuners. (I can always get internal tuners if those are recommended)

I have numerous computers with varying performance capabilities that I can use for backend.

Frontend is where it gets tricky. Ease of use and remote control options are key. Ideally I'd like to purchase a number of raspberry pi's, but based on what I've read they're hit/miss on live TV performance. Any other low power/small/cheap setups that are recommended for frontend?

Sorry folks, I know this has been asked a bazillion times but every thread i could find had different suggestions and I couldn't get any sort of consensus on the matter.



Thank you!!
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post #2 of 10 Old 03-24-2014, 05:47 PM
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I'm currently working to get rid of all but 1 of my Comcast cable boxes (so I can keep On-Demand),

  • win7-WMC server with the serverWMC add-on running on it
  • NUC computers running openELEC at each TV talking to the serverWMC app
  • HP usb WMC remote at each NUC, works for openELEC
  • HDPrime tuner on the wired gigabit network

This allows one channel guide and one recording list for all the multiple TV locations for LiveTV and recorded TV. It also allows to to view lots of other content on your network.

I actually run my win7-WMC machine as a virtual machine (headless) on my VMware server, but it should also work as a real physical machine for you.
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post #3 of 10 Old 03-25-2014, 01:30 AM
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If you can get MythTV to work with whatever internal tuners you want, you only need to install OpenELEC (which is XBMC by the way) on four NUC devices (1 for each comcast box) and install the MythTV plugin on each box and you're done...

The challenge is getting MythTV to work... the OpenELEC part can be completed in 15 minutes for all four NUC boxes...

You can put all the media you want to share on the same box that is running MythTV, and use NFS to share media to all NUC boxes...

TVHeadend is another good one if you cannot get MythTV to work...

TVHeadend is light weight and easier to set up than MythTV, and also has an XBMC plugin...

I wouldn't recommend anything windows... M$ is crapware in this arena...

Good Luck
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post #4 of 10 Old 03-25-2014, 12:04 PM
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Balky,

Does MythTV handle the encrypted channels from Comcast ? All Comcast channels are now encrypted (no clear QAM), I'm not referring to the Premium channels.

What do you do you do for a channel guide with MythTV ? With WMC it is provided for free, and all NUC clients use the same guide and recorded TV list so no duplicates occur.

I like openELEC very much, MythTV not so much.

Network tuners like HD Homerun Prime are much better than internal PCIe based or usb tuners, IMO.
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post #5 of 10 Old 03-26-2014, 09:36 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BruceD View Post

Does MythTV handle the encrypted channels from Comcast ? All Comcast channels are now encrypted (no clear QAM), I'm not referring to the Premium channels.

There are two issues to separate: encryption and digital rights management. Tuners like the HDHomerun Prime with a cable card decrypt cable channel content. DRM flags (Copy freely, Copy once, Copy never) then determines whether you can record them. Some cable franchises plaster copy restrictions on channels that, in theory, should not have them. I don't know about Comcast in your area.
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What do you do you do for a channel guide with MythTV ? With WMC it is provided for free, and all NUC clients use the same guide and recorded TV list so no duplicates occur.

In North America, MythTV users should use SchedulesDirect for guide info ($25/year). SD is a cooperative venture supporting a variety of open source projects and provides accurate listing information for 2 weeks or more in the future. Well worth it. Myth refreshs the guide info daily and, of course, maintains a recording history so you don't have to record duplicates.
Quote:
I like openELEC very much, MythTV not so much.

Network tuners like HD Homerun Prime are much better than internal PCIe based or usb tuners, IMO.

Donno much about openELEC; MythTV is very strong in using your recording rules to capture as much of your desired content as possible and making it available throughout your home network.. If Comcast has reasonable policies in your area, the HDHomerun Prime is a popular choice with Myth. You can get user support from the forum and the wiki:

https://forum.mythtv.org/index.php
http://www.mythtv.org/wiki/Main_Page

Craig
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post #6 of 10 Old 03-26-2014, 05:54 PM - Thread Starter
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thank you all very much for the responses, so it seems either MythTV or windows are the way to go. What do you suggest for the main server computer and the "set top boxes"? I will never use the server PC at all except to store content. Low power is probably ideal since I imagine it has to be on all the time? I think I have an intel E2160 computer sitting around not being used with either 2 or 4gb of ddr2 ram. will this be good enough?(power management options such as wake from sleep never seem to work correctly for me).

Think Raspberry pi is an option for either of your suggestions? Only reason I'm stressing the pi is specifically for power consumption. If there are really low power alternatives I am all ears! I would hate to have a fully functional 150W+ htpc running in every room if I can avoid it.

EDIT: wow what planet have I been on. didn't even catch what your NUC reference meant until i googled it lol. I think this would most definitely be the way to go, but at over 200 bucks a pop it isn't worth the money for me. raspberry pi is still my top option if it works properly. Or chromecast???

Do any of you guys have multi-room setups that you can give me an example of that is easy to use for non-techies in my family and that won't break the bank smile.gif
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post #7 of 10 Old 03-27-2014, 12:43 AM
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I'd suggest testing a Pi as an XBMC playback device before sticking to that decision. While they are a neat concept, they end up being used a lot like netbooks were. They are "just shy" of meeting most peoples needs, and end up being "hardware" in search of a purpose

The bay-trail NUC would be a better choice, or the Asus Chromebox if there is a true way to get it to boot a linux distro without having to do something ridiculous like pressing "Ctrl+D" or it boots to Chrome instead. The Asus Chromebox is otherwise the cheapest given the inflation that memory has seen these days. Fortunately you only need 2GB per machine, so a good deal on a NUC may get you better hardware for the same price if you use 2GB ddr3 and a USB3 8 or 16 GB flash drive to boot. Although the 2955U should be up to the task of standard and HD playback just fine.

The biggest detriment that keeps most from using a Pi for this scenario is the slow menu and skin performance, so that's why I would suggest trying it out. Nobody's going to want to embrace the change if it feels like you are navigating a powerpoint presentation to view your libraries and change channels


Also, I'd highly recommend OpenELEC for the HTPCs. Can't beat the simplicity. I'm not sure which distro they started with when they set out to create an "XBMC embedded Linux entertainment center" but you get all the benefits of linux (smart resource usage, runs quick from usb 3 drive, low ram requirements) along with an appliance like OS that feels like nothing more than your XBMC front end.

Rather than setting up myth and hooking openelec into that, I'd suggest using W7 for your server and install serverwmc. A couple notes on this
  • Windows isn't as good with RAM, so in my opinion 4GB is a minimum and 8GB is recommended for what you'll be doing
  • The OS does not cost $100 or more if you look around for how to "clean install" from an upgrade license. Upgrade licenses are cheaper
  • MCL is a recommended program that will automatically add channel logos to your guide information (if you like, extra $7 though)
  • Guide data is provided free with WMC by Microsoft until at least 2020 (IIRC), so if you factor in 5 and half (+) years of schedules direct ($25/yr) then you more than recoup the cost of going with windows for the server
  • For all the positives / negatives you may hear, setting up tuners and configuring live tv in WMC is extremely easy. Take the least technical person you know, and they could still follow what you are doing with WMC setup after one time through. I can't say the same for tvheadend or myth
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post #8 of 10 Old 03-27-2014, 05:57 AM
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Quote:
The biggest detriment that keeps most from using a Pi for this scenario is the slow menu and skin performance, so that's why I would suggest trying it out. Nobody's going to want to embrace the change if it feels like you are navigating a powerpoint presentation to view your libraries and change channels

I don't find that to be the case at all with my Pi, the menu performance is more than acceptable, although I haven't tested it with live TV. The Gotham version of XBMC has gone a long way in being more CPU friendly with the Pi.
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post #9 of 10 Old 03-27-2014, 02:00 PM
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I'm heavily invested into MythTV, and I'm always looking at ways to make the frontends smaller and cheaper. I'm always looking at ways to integrate MythTV better with my needs.

Here's what I found. If Live TV and recording playback is your primary focus, stick with MythTV for both your backend and frontends.

XBMC is slick, but MythTV does it really well also, plus it handles your live TV and recordings. Then you're not fumbling with multiple interfaces.

Comcast in Chicago allows all channels to be be played and recorded, except for premium channels (HBO) with cable card. I can't speak for other areas of the country, but surprisingly, Comcast is the most friendly with the HDHomerun Prime.

For a backend, use your most powerful available computer. Especially if you're streaming to multiple frontends. My MythTV backend operates as a frontend, backend, but also a Subsonic music server so I can stream my music library to my iPhone/iPad and other devices/computers. I'm doing that with a Core 2 Duo with 4 GB of RAM. I have one other frontend that's constantly on. Seems like the computer handles everything fine, but would I suggest going smaller? Probably not.

MythTV is not the most friendly program to set up. If you've never done it, prepare to pound your head on the desk for awhile. There's a lot that's not very intuitive. The MythTV developers don't have a marketing department to go through their processes to make them more user friendly. So you end up with incoherent ramblings of brilliant people.

I don't suggest prepackaged MythTV distros like Mythbuntu. I also don't recommend the route I eventually took, which was Arch Linux with MythTV built into it. Start with a simple Linux distro like Mint XFCE and add MythTV from the repository and go from there. You'll have a much easier time getting it running that way.
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post #10 of 10 Old 03-31-2014, 11:56 AM - Thread Starter
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sorry for the late response got busy with work, being a salaried employee is harsh lol. I will take all of your feedback into consideration. I bought an HDHRP (but really wanted to wait for the new version that is still not out yet). I also decided to buy a PI for now so I can test it out in my bedroom. I figured if it works okay for me then I can tolerate the slowness, and I can get a better performing frontend for my non-technical family members.

I think initially just to test out all the equipment i'll be going the WMC route since I already have 4 desktops available with W7 installed and I have a family pack license for W7 that I can put on a fresh build if I decide to.

If i'm satisfied with the results, I'll start tinkering with the MythTV/XBMC options. If i'm not satisfied, then i guess comcast chicago will take my money again smile.gif

Thank you all very much!
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