Fog Creek Software
Discussion Board




Home Brew PVRs, anyone got one?

I put the order into Santa for an ATI All In Wonder Pro 9000 and a 120GB hard drive, and as my first attempt at building my own PVR draws near, I'm wondering if any of you have an experience with this.

I got my hands on ATI's "Remote Wonder SDK" which I'm really excited about.  The card also comes with Guide+ (for TV listings) and a Media Center app to watch live TV, DVD's etc and I'm considering the possibility of using myHTPC as well.

Anyone got any advice on this card's performance (I can always trade up ;), PVRs in general, software to use, etc.?

Wayne
Thursday, December 18, 2003

One more thing.  I read that later I can get another "TV Wonder" card and do Picture in Picture and "Record one channel while watching another".

I'd really like to know if anyone has done this, I haven't really found any stories about it on the net.

Wayne
Thursday, December 18, 2003

I just purchased an ATI All-in-Wonder 9600 Pro (which replaces my AIW Rage 128).

The "media center" software is very good.  It's a great improvement for viewing full screen TV and video.  The PVR functions are relatively easy to use w/ the exception of Guide+ -- which is, unfortunately, pretty crappy all around.

I recommend a program called girder for the remote control; it includes a remote wonder plugin and allows you to map all kinds of operations.

Almost Anonymous
Thursday, December 18, 2003

Boy, I don't know if you'll be able to do double recording. Those DirecTiVos (and the comparable Dish version) are highly optimized, and even so, when I record two programs at once I'll occasionally get hiccups.

I wouldn't get your heart set on that with a home brew PC version.

Brad Wilson (dotnetguy.techieswithcats.com)
Thursday, December 18, 2003

I've got an All-In-Wonder Radeon 9700 card in a box at home. In general, it works pretty well, but I've discovered a few quirks:

Guide+ only allows you to get the schedule for the next week, so repeated recordings are a bit of a pain.

When you have a recorded schedule, the machine must be on, you must be logged in, AND the screen saver cannot be running at the time the recording is supposed to start, otherwise the recorder app just crashes. Took me a while to figure out the screen saver part.

The ATI file player is crap - I've got a 2.4 GHz CPU and tons of RAM, and yet it still skips on recorded mpg files. Windows Media Player doesn't, but WMP doesn't have the fast forward/rewind features the ATI player does. Argh!

There's a bug in at least my copy of the ATI TV app; when I pause live TV, then hit play, the TV picture gets blown up to 4x normal, and I only get to watch the upper left quadrant of the display. Kinda destroys the whole point of the feature.

So, in general, great hardware, lousy software.

Chris Tavares
Thursday, December 18, 2003

I hope the video output isn't bad on the 9000.  I have an ATI Radeon Mobility in my laptop that has TV Out, and I think it looks great, so I figure these AIW cards have to be good.

As for problems with software, I've been reading on the site about how you can use Microsoft DirectShow to interface with the captured input to build non-ATI apps.

Here is a site that I found for pre-made plugins that allow you to control other software with the remote:

http://remotew.free.fr/plugins.htm

Here are some other sites with interesting topics:

http://www.rage3d.com/board/showthread.php?s=&threadid=33650141
http://myhtpc.net/
http://myhtpc.net/forum/viewtopic.php?t=542
http://www.ati.com/developer/ammosdk.html

Apparently, these remotes are made by X-10: http://x10rc.web1000.com/index2.htm

Wayne
Thursday, December 18, 2003

I've been looking into building my own - discovered MythTV - a linux-based PVR app.  Also KnopMyth is a Knoppix-based distro built specifically for MythTV.  Unfortunately I can't get it to install. 

I would really like to build my own Windows XP Media Center Edition... I have the OS with MSDN, just can't find out what hardware i need to install it.  Any ideas?

nathan
Thursday, December 18, 2003

"Boy, I don't know if you'll be able to do double recording. Those DirecTiVos (and the comparable Dish version) are highly optimized, and even so, when I record two programs at once I'll occasionally get hiccups."

While the Tivos are use-optimized, they run on relatively underpowered PowerPC processors, when compared to generic PC hardware.

A decently quick P4 should easily be able to encode and save two channels to disk at once, assuming the tuning hardware is capable of pulling them both in at once.

MrFancypants
Friday, December 19, 2003

According to this:

http://www.ati.com/buy/promotions/dellmediacenter.html

ATI Makes the Media Center with the AIW 9000 and something called ATI ENCODE.

If you're interested in hardware for MythTV or Freevo, this site has a nice hardware database with succesfull configurations for either of those two.

http://pvrhw.goldfish.org/tiki-pvrhwdb.php

Although the screenshots look nice, I don't think I'd like to use Linux for my media center because I think I can get better tools and support for Windows.

Wayne
Friday, December 19, 2003

There's also this:

http://www.ati.com/products/ehome/index.html

ATI’s E-HOME WONDER™ is a hardware based low profile PCI TV solution that features hardware MPEG-2 encoding which allows PC manufacturers to support Windows XP Media Center Edition 2004 across multiple processor platforms. An optional FM tuner is also available on the E-HOME WONDER

Wayne
Friday, December 19, 2003

I'm surpirsed no one has mentioned the free, open-source Linux-based PVR projects. I have not used either of these projects, but I have a co-worker that has Freevo box. Not for the faint of heart! :-)

Freevo:
http://freevo.sourceforge.net/

Myth:
http://www.mythtv.org/

runtime
Friday, December 19, 2003

I tried a Celeron 1.7Ghz with an ATI TV Wonder PCI, and it would consume around 80% of the CPU resources compressing at a reasonably high quality to MPEG2 -- using the PVR features of pausing live TV simply didn't work with this codec as the combined CPU resources, plus the IO contention, couldn't support compressing and playing back the video stream.

When people mention the "hardware" PVRs, remember that they have hardware encoders to encode video to MPEG2 or whatever, accomplishing in a piece of specialized circuitry what would take a considerable percentage of some of today's best processors. The low power processors in those machines are generally just schedulers orchestrating it all. Some of the PC add-in cards, notably Hauppage, do have hardware compression, but the majority don't.

As a sidenote - I abandoned my home-built PVR project because there were simply too many "quirks" with the system -- in no way did it work as a flawless element of my home theatre system.

Dennis Forbes
Friday, December 19, 2003

Hauppage has an excellent product, WinTV PVR250 (or the 350 w/FM) which offers complete PVR capabilities.  It is meant to be used in addition to your Video Adapter.

I built a 2.4Ghz P4 w/2GB Ram using the WinTV PVR 350 and a 128MB nVidea 5200 card.  The mainboard has SATA hard drive capabilites - which I would highly recommend, as they are very quiet and have great throughput.

Finally, carefully consider your case - You'll want a quiet one!  Antec has a couple  - a Tower and a 17" width desktop style that will fit nicely in a hifi rack; both in piano black finish.

Although dedicated to WinXP Media Center Editon,

http://xpmce.com & http://thegreenbutton.com

have some good DYI sections with great info.

hope this helps - John

John Murray
Friday, December 19, 2003

Out of curiosity,
Do any of the major hardware manufactures of these kinds of video cards publish an API for features that allow PVRs, or does DirectX support these functions?

Joe Patterson
Friday, December 19, 2003

Thanks all for the replies.

John Murray, thanks for those links and your hardware info.

Joe Patterson, check out the "Programming Info" on this page:

http://www.ati.com/developer/

According to the Video sub-section you can use DirectShow to get to the card's capture data.  Other than that, I think Hauppauge might sell an SDK, but I'm not sure.

Wayne
Friday, December 19, 2003

"I abandoned my home-built PVR project because there were simply too many 'quirks' with the system -- in no way did it work as a flawless element of my home theatre system."

Yeah, that would stop me from doing it, too. My DirecTiVo experience is absolutely stellar. I'd have a hard time finding anything to improve upon, not to mention no reason to invest the effort and cash into a PC to replace a $199 box.

Brad Wilson (dotnetguy.techieswithcats.com)
Saturday, December 20, 2003

You'll do much better with a home brew PVR by using a hardware encoder.  The popular choice is the PVR-250 from Hauppauge.

And in my very biased opinion, Beyond TV 3.4 is the way to go for the software and full PVR experience.  You'll also get tons of advice at our forums.

http://www.snapstream.com

Richard Kuo
Sunday, December 21, 2003

I agree that ATI's file player app is crap. I use Elecard Mpeg Player, which I downloaded for a small fee. It is the best Mpeg player I have found - it's very stable and you can scan through the file easlily without hiccups or crashes.

Jon
Sunday, January 25, 2004

I just "brewed" my own PVR using MythTV with much help from KnoppMyth and so far of very happy. I posted some of my notes here:

http://www.hatch.org/wiki/PVR/STeVo

Steven Hatch
Tuesday, January 27, 2004

Http://mythtv.no-ip.com
A how to guide

Ed
Friday, February 13, 2004

*  Recent Topics

*  Fog Creek Home