Mar 10, 2008

New Version of MythTV .21 Released

V.21 of MythTV was released the 8th of March. Release notes are here. It has been a while since the last update and the developers have gifted us with many changes. Most exciting to me is the addition of volume groups. This means that MythTV can be set up to manage and record on multiple drives without using RAID or LVM. This means less complexity and the ease of adding or removing a drive depending on your storage needs. Mythweb has been improved and features added like a streaming window you your recordings that can be played in the browser. Another claim is that the frontend memory has been reduced by 75%.

When this is added to the source repositories I will do a review on all of the changes and improvements to give you my take.

Mar 5, 2008

Hauppauge HD-PVR, Mythtv, and the Analog Hole

Update to this article here

I have been eagerly following a piece of hardware from Hauppauge called the HD-PVR because it records HD from component video in 1080i and 720p with a hardware encoder. I first read about this device from the Snapstream blog here. The analog video out of most HD set topped boxes and HD players has been called by the industry as the "Analog Hole". This is because the signal from the component output is not encrypted or protected from recording such as HDCP protects the HDMI digital connections that are becoming the standard recently. There is some sample video and frame capture from these forum threads found at this link. Here is a single frame captured by the device showing the great quality that can be recorded from the component inputs.

I think it is a smart move by the powers that be to push digital (HDCP encrypted) signals are so much better than analog, but the truth is that they are very close if not identical.

The other big problem I have foreseen is that the 2009 analog cutoff is quickly approaching. This means that analog over-the-air is going away which is no great loss since over-the-air and Clear QAM HD is much better and DRM free. The part which worries me is my own opinion that Cable providers are also going to follow the lead and phase out the analog cable channels and reclaim that huge bandwidth that they take up and instead have more internet capacity or on-demand programming. Think about it. Everyone would have to have a digital cable box rented from the cable company and the cable company would be able to sell services on the reclaimed bandwidth; it is a win-win.

So cable boxes and cable cards will be the only way to tune the new channels and you can be sure they are well protected against copying and being used on the consumer's own terms. So far Cable Labs is restricting cable cards to PCs with Vista and a specialized bios and they will never allow Linux and Mythtv to use the Cable Card intentionally. So this analog hole will be the only way to record HD from digital channels that would otherwise be protected by strong encryption that can be dynamically keyed and protected.

This HD-PVR and devices like it would be the only way to record digital cable with Mythtv until the analog hole is closed sometime in the future. I hope there is a strong market for the device and other similar devices come on the market. Here is a release about the device from CeBIT I found today on Pocket-lint.

"The new Hauppauge HD-PVR is a plug-in USB stick with a built-in H.264 HD encoder to view and record HD video on a PC. The package also includes software to create HD disks for playback on a Blu-ray player. The new HD-PVR stick can encode 720p and 1080i HD sources at up to 13.5 Mbps on the fly to the PC's hard disk. "

So officially the HD-PVR will first support Vista and XP but linux drivers could be an option from Hauppauge. Since this device streams over USB someone will make this work with Mythtv eventually. This device solves a problem I have been worried about for a while now. I may even get digital cable!

Update to this article here.

Mar 3, 2008

Everex gPC Mini, The Perfect Mythtv Box?

I found this hardware today on and I immediately thought of a Mythtv frontend. This has the power to be a frontend and backend but hard drive space would be the limiting factor there. USB hard drives would be fine for this form factor and they do work with Mythtv. This mini pc will be very efficient and help offset some of it's cost by energy conservation. I know the full desktop that I currently use for Mythtv takes up much more power than this pc. My budget does not allow the 500 dollar price tag, but it will be interesting when the price on this hardware eventually falls. The Everex Cloudbook laptop is priced around 400 dollars but does not have the higher end specs that this gPC does.

Most sources I have read say that Newegg will be selling the gPC on March 1st but I have not seen it as of today the 3rd.

Everex gPC Mini Specs

1.86GHz T2130
6.7" x 8.9"
1.65" thick
gOS Linux
DVI, S-Video, FireWire, 4xUSB, Gbit LAN, S/PDIF, Card Reader
Intel GMA950 video, DVD burner