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Linux for HTPC?

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March 20, 2008 1:10:48 PM

Ok So i am looking at this realm and know squat about it. Linux is something I never ventured into since I had a class that touched on it about 10 years ago when it was very unuser friendly. My question is. I am looking at making an el-cheapo Home Theater PC and really only want to for a few reasons. 1) play Blue Ray DVD's 2)surf the net on my big screen. That is all. I am looking at the 780G chipeset mobo's with the built in HD3200 graphics that have audio through HDMI as a solution to get the picture to my TV. What is out there? Does Linux support these newer technologies. Personally I think Windows will be completely underused on this machine for the few things I want to do with it. Any thoughts?

More about : linux htpc

March 20, 2008 2:33:32 PM

Yes, I am interested in the capabilities of Linux for a home theater setup. I currently have one that runs on WinXP, and although I don't really have any problems, I wonder if I could get better use out of it with Linux. The software I use is pretty good, GBPVR, so hopefully there is a good Linux alternative. But, I am looking for a more streamlined way to go, something that avoids you ever seeing a "desktop" (unless you need it). Like it boots right into the PVR software and runs stable for weeks on end.

Thanks, and please answer Jay's questions, not mine. I will just sit back and watch what is learned :) 
March 20, 2008 4:50:56 PM

That is exactly what I am looking for. Something with an easy interface that will just work. Vista Premium is $100 but is it worth it to get around the hastle of linux? that is my dilemma. If there is a good Linux solution that costs nothing or is cheap I'm all for it.
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March 20, 2008 4:59:08 PM

Jay - Have you tried GBPVR? It really is a great program, and it is free (the creater does accept donations, though). I use it, and it is very nice and professional looking and runs great.

But, as good as it is, I wonder if there is a better way to do this on Linux. I still have that constant reminder that I am running a Windows box. All the normal issues you have with windows is there. I want something in my living room that doesn't reek of MS :) 

Power up the box, straight into the pvr software and never see a desktop!
March 20, 2008 5:11:38 PM

So what do you use as a card to record? I have been looking at parts and am not sure what im looking at. I know gaming machines and standard desktops. That is about it.
March 20, 2008 5:31:50 PM

Hey,

I'm not a Micro$oft fan by any means but I have to say... If you want it to do most of the normal media center stuff AND play bluray go for vista. The Bluray playback software for vista is still imperfect AFAIK, but it is the only os with halfway decent support.

Don't expect linux bluray support until they have the equiv. of AnyDVD HD for linux(ie. broken the encryption properly).
*Edited* Ubuntu Rocks!

Also don't bet on good hardware support for the 780G including HDCP or High Def acceleration. Maybe ATI would get around to writing the binary drivers, then again maybe not. Open source drivers for that stuff aren't gonna happen.

Vista's PVR software is decent and IMO worth the price of OEM home premium ~$100. I'm still thinking of trying to put mythtv backend on my Ubuntu server, but thats a long term project for me (and TV listings will cost $20/yr for myth tv vs. nothing extra for vista.).
March 20, 2008 5:49:08 PM

jay2tall said:
So what do you use as a card to record? I have been looking at parts and am not sure what im looking at. I know gaming machines and standard desktops. That is about it.



I use an ATI TV Wonder Elite w/ Theater 550 chip. There are new ones with the 650 chip. But, mine is awesome and has great picture and color. It also does hardware rendering, so my CPU doesn't ever take a hit when recording. I can watch a recorded show (or a DVD) while it is recording another show. That being said, I am still on SDTV using standard cable.

Otherwise, I always hear good things about Hauppauge cards... though no expereience here.
March 20, 2008 5:51:09 PM

cyborg28 said:
Hey,

I'm not a Micro$oft fan by any means but I have to say... If you want it to do most of the normal media center stuff AND play bluray go for vista. The Bluray playback software for vista is still imperfect AFAIK, but it is the only os with halfway decent support.

Don't expect linux bluray support until they have the equiv. of AnyDVD HD for linux(ie. broken the encryption properly). Also don't bet good hardware support for the 780G including HDCP or High Def acceleration. Maybe ATI would get around to writing the binary drivers, then again maybe not. Open source drivers for that stuff aren't gonna happen.

Vista's PVR software is decent and IMO worth the price of OEM home premium ~$100. I'm still thinking of trying to put mythtv backend on my Ubuntu server, but thats a long term project for me (and TV listings will cost $20/yr for myth tv vs. nothing extra for vista.).


Does Vista have built in PVR software?

Myth TV is one that I have always wondered about. I am just scared to try and get it all running on my PC, with no Linux experience at all :( 


March 20, 2008 8:14:55 PM

@ Basketcase -> Vista Home Premium and above have Media Center w/ a great PVR (not as good as tivo) built in. It is the only solid advantage I see over XP.

Hauppauge PVR-### (150, 250, 350, 500 but not all 250 MCE) cards work. They work in windows. They work in linux. The software they come with in windows has a crappy UI but puts out decent quality. Windows Media Center has a great UI but puts out crappy picture quality (that can be tweaked with 3rd prty sftwr).

*Edit to finish my post*

ATI cards are fantastic when they work. I have had a string of All in wonders in the past and each one has had fantastic picture quality and decent software from ATI. They are badly supported by third party application. Linux support is almost non existent. Microsoft support may be better, but non of the all in wonders were supported in Vista.

If you are even considering a Linux PVR just buy a white box OEM Hauppauge PVR-150 card, it will work with almost any PC PVR software avail (linux or windows) and can be had for as little as $50 or 60.

I want an ATI Theater 650 Pro PCIe combo tuner card, but only for vista. It has 2 tuners and does NTSC, ATSC and clear QAM. I have no expectation of the card working in Linux (I might buy the USB version as I hear it does Mac as well as PC).
March 20, 2008 10:09:51 PM

jay2tall,

You should check out the Knoppmyth project. Someone put together an easy to use Knoppix distro with MythTV bundled. I haven't used it but if you're going the Linux route you may want to consider it.

I second Cyborg's VMC suggestion though. It is well worth the $100 for Vista Premium for the PVR and media functions. Outstanding integration of TV, sports scores, movies, music, pictures... IMHO, and its very easy to set up. There are a lot of very useful plugins for it as well.
April 21, 2008 4:04:10 PM

So Jay,

Made any decisions?

I have put together a low end MythTV PVR/Server. Right now it has one TV Tuner (that I pulled from my vista media center), and runs TorrentFlux web based torrent client/server, samba windows file sharing, mythtv backend, ssh and webmin.

I also got the ATI Theater 650 Pro PCIe combo tuner card that I wanted and put it in my vista media center PC. The Analog TV quality is great but I don't get any OTA or clear QAM digital tv where I live and Digital Cable (QAM) is not supported in Vista Media Center with the card, you have to use the ATI software.

My Ubuntu + MythTV system:

Intel 815 series Mobo with onboard video (MythBuntu does not work with this Mobo, must install Ubuntu, then add MythTV)
Intel Onboard Nic
Intel PIII 933 CPU
384 MB PC100/133 ram
WinTV PVR-150
20 GB IDE HDD (800MB Swap, the rest ext3 root)
IDE CD ROM
Silicon Image PCI SATA RAID Card (w/ 2 Seagate 500GB 7200.10 SATA HDDs)
Adaptec/Texas Instruments ieee1394 PCI host card

* Corrected System Specs.
April 21, 2008 4:17:33 PM

I have a Gigabyte GA-MA78-S2H and a AMD BE-2400 that work with Ubuntu 8.04 beta. Support for Blu-Ray is there and also for Phenom, which does not work with Linux at the moment.
April 21, 2008 4:24:25 PM

evongugg said:
I have a Gigabyte GA-MA78-S2H and a AMD BE-2400 that work with Ubuntu 8.04 beta. Support for Blu-Ray is there.



I'm not sure I understand? There is software to play bluray in Ubuntu? What program do you use?


Wow, amazing what google can do:

https://help.ubuntu.com/community/RestrictedFormats/Blu...

Does Hardware acceleration of video decoding work? What is CPU usage like when watching bluray?

Thanks,

Cy
April 21, 2008 4:58:30 PM

This is a bit late, but I'm also planning on building a 780G based HTPC sometime. I have a copy of Vista Ultimate laying around, so I'll probably use that, but only after I have deemed Mythbuntu or some Linux + MythTV either impossible or too much work/upkeep. I'm really hoping Mythbuntu works. I installed it on my laptop a few weeks ago just to get a feel for it, and it's really nice. Boots to the MythTV and seems like it will work well with the correct configurations. The only serious downside comparing it to Microsoft's Media Center is the fee for the guide.
April 21, 2008 5:00:39 PM

There's also a MythDora linux distro, but I've never used it. I still haven't found any computer combination that can do what my Tivo does as well as my Tivo for a price anywhere near my Tivo.

Here's a hint, if you've had your Tivo for a couple years, call up and try to cancel- they'll offer you a better monthly price going forward...
a b 5 Linux
April 21, 2008 9:23:43 PM

There are times when even the wonders of Open Source can't compete with a dedicated solution...
!