Introduction

A few weeks ago, we introduced the first of a series of articles on building a home made PVR, "Building a Linux PVR Part I - MythTV Setup and Install". Today, we bring you the second part of the series, which focuses on Microsoft's Windows XP Media Center Edition 2004 and how it compares to the Linux-based MythTV.

When Microsoft first introduced their Media Center Edition of Windows, many saw this as a great opportunity to acquire a cheap PVR, since it was combined with a PC that could be used for the usual day-to-day tasks, such as word processing or browsing the Internet. But with that, Microsoft decided to bundle MCE with custom PCs that are built using the short list of supported hardware by big names in the industry, such as Hewlett-Packard and Gateway Computers. It could not be bought off store shelves by PC enthusiasts who already had hardware capable of PVR operations, nor did Microsoft plan on supporting hardware besides those from the few names it worked with.

Fast forward to today where Microsoft has begun selling OEM versions of their Media Center Edition to "Mom and Pop" shops to be installed on only Media Center Edition certified machines. This is a step forward, since it gives more power to those smaller shops. Media Center Edition still does not have support for the long list of hardware that MythTV does, but Microsoft has expanded their driver list quite a bit from their first release.

Although we installed MythTV from scratch in the previous review, we will use KnoppMyth in this half of the analysis. KnoppMyth installs cleanly and easily, but does not offer as much support as getting your hands dirty with a "from scratch" install.

Media Center Edition 2004 vs MythTV
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  • Xsecrets - Thursday, September 16, 2004 - link

    --> I don't think they would have been 'dinged' for this problem if KnoppMyth had, for instance, put up a dialog box TELLING THEM that the problem is that they need to install a DVD ripper (or whatever). But the fact that KnoppMyth gives no on-screen indication of this to the end user means that it fails the 'grandma' test, at which point it doesn't really matter _why_ it didn't work.

    If you'll take a second to look at the DMCA and the history behind decss it is illegal to even tell anyone where to get decss so knoppmyth sort of has it's hands tied. We can't tell grandma go click here and it will enable dvd playback and ripping, or the MPAA can come after the project, and shut it down. This sucks it's not right, but it's the law in the us. If people like grandma paid more attention to the government taking away all of their rights this would not be an issue. I suppose the knoppmyth developers could have a pop up telling why dvd playing and ripping don't work, and just say go scour the internet, but that's about as user friendly as they can legally be.

    Reply
  • KristopherKubicki - Thursday, September 16, 2004 - link

    thedude666:

    All of the topics you addressed were in the article.

    >for instance, it is practically impossible to compile MythTV in 20 minutes


    We used knoppmyth for part II of this analysis.

    >Firstly, they try and compare software encoding offof any old bttv card to hardware encoding on a card like the PVR-250 (which Myth is more than capable of handling adequately). Apples and oranges.

    Not really; not that it matters anyway since we used both setups in this analysis.

    Kristopher
    Reply
  • JKolstad - Thursday, September 16, 2004 - link

    A few comments:

    "As a mater of fact all of it has to do with copy protection, as it is illegal to distribute decss in the US where knoppmyth is developed. They go on to say "In either case, we can't watch "Nip Tuck" on the KnoppMyth machine without some serious changes to the install", but fail to mention that the serious changes to the install involve running one command as root."

    --> I don't think they would have been 'dinged' for this problem if KnoppMyth had, for instance, put up a dialog box TELLING THEM that the problem is that they need to install a DVD ripper (or whatever). But the fact that KnoppMyth gives no on-screen indiciation of this to the end user means that it fails the 'grandma' test, at which point it doesn't really matter _why_ it didn't work.

    "Firstly, they try and compare software encoding offof any old bttv card to hardware encoding on a card like the PVR-250 (which Myth is more than capable of handling adequately). Apples and oranges."

    --> How so? If anything, I'd expect the software encoding to be better in that it's usually a lot easier to build 'adaptive' software than hardware.

    I personally kinda prefer the hardware approach though...

    "And they also ignore MythTV's *real* strength in that you can cluster as many computers and TV cards as you want into a single cohesive entertainment system spanning your entire house, thanks to it's funky client/server architecture."

    --> I agree it deserves a mention, but I suspect the reason they neglected it is due to the fact that realistically not many people are going to make use of such a feature I.e., it's great for hardware computer junkies, but granny probably isn't going to be that excited about having a LAN party box in her bathroom. Although grandpa might like the second tuner, I'd grant you, so that he can record football while grandma watchs the world poker championships or something.

    ---Joel

    Reply
  • thedude666 - Thursday, September 16, 2004 - link

    I'm sorry to say but I believe anandtech is losing their technical edge when it comes to subjects such as this or at least where linux is concerned.

    I'll quote someone who just posted this on /.

    quote:
    ..there are alot of problems with this review.

    Firstly, they try and compare software encoding offof any old bttv card to hardware encoding on a card like the PVR-250 (which Myth is more than capable of handling adequately). Apples and oranges.

    They make almost no mention of the many plugins Myth has available, such as the web browser, RSS syndication, weather, music, every kind of video ever (through mPlayer and/or Xine)...

    Almost complete non-mention of the way MythWeb (web-based MythTV control and viewing system) seamlessly integrates with the system, and allows you to do funky things with your Mythbox from work

    And they also ignore MythTV's *real* strength in that you can cluster as many computers and TV cards as you want into a single cohesive entertainment system spanning your entire house, thanks to it's funky client/server architecture.

    Very little objective/subjective comment on the relative merits of the interfaces

    Frankly, I find it rather difficult that they could put an entire Myth system together in little under 4 hours, especially since they seem to know little about Linux (for instance, it is practically impossible to compile MythTV in 20 minutes - it takes aaaaaggggggeeeeessss. Methinks they meant download and install rather than compile).

    endquote.

    My 2 cents, myth is much easier to install in a debian based system. It's just apt-get mythtv and everything was set up.

    C'mon anandtech get a little more of a clue on subjects such as this before your write up.
    Reply
  • Xsecrets - Thursday, September 16, 2004 - link

    I have a few corrections for the article.

    1) The article claims that "the feature that puts MCE on top in this screen is the live display on the bottom left." without stating that mythtv also has this feature on it's program guide when accessed from livetv.

    2) The reviewer doesn't bother to research why dvd playback doesn't work on knoppmyth, stating "Part of this may have to do with copy-protection, part of it may have to do with poorly constructed code." As a mater of fact all of it has to do with copy protection, as it is illegal to distribute decss in the US where knoppmyth is developed. They go on to say "In either case, we can't watch "Nip Tuck" on the KnoppMyth machine without some serious changes to the install", but fail to mention that the serious changes to the install involve running one command as root.(granted this is a bit more of a pain than mce, but Microsoft can afford to pay for you to be able to play the movies you have already purchased where the knoppmyth development team cannot, blame the DMCA) To add insult to injury towards the end of that article they talk about legal issues with knoppmyth because of the ability to rip dvd's. Obviously they did not test this feature, as this feature no more works "out of the box" on knoppmyth than playing dvd's, for the same legal reasons, and getting it to work requires the same one command.

    3)the article states that "The ability to make changes to KnoppMyth after it has already been installed is one quality that it severely lacks." Knoppmyth is no more difficult to make changes to once installed than any other linux distribution with mythtv installed on it. It is just less likely that you will need to, and less likely that a new user will know how to, since they didn't have to spend hours figuring everything out just to get mythtv installed.

    on a final note I am just correcting the mistakes I saw with mythtv, and do not really mean to be biased, but I have never use mce more than playing with it in the store for a few minutes and use mythtv in the form of knoppmyth on a daily basis.
    Reply
  • Cygni - Thursday, September 16, 2004 - link

    Im kinda with Nintari in one respect. There are plenty of tools and 3rd party progs for MCE which fix the problems mentioned. If your going to use third party/skins/plug ins for Myth, it would only be fair to mention the third party plug ins for MCE. Overall though, a good review. Reply
  • Nintari - Thursday, September 16, 2004 - link

    I have many problems with the review...

    Codecs.. the DVR-MS file is just that.. a file that is recorded t oyour machine. It utilizes the PVRs hardware encoding features to crate this file. As for Codecs you use a DVD Codec to decode the video file. NVDVD is preffered as it is the most reliable and stable codec for use in MCE.

    Software encoders.. the reason for using hardware based PVR cards and not software ones is the obious advantage of recording in the backround with little to no cpu use. Als owhile viewing TV there is hardly any CPU used. There is software based encoding availible to MCE. ATI has a special encdoer for thier AIW line to allow software encoding.

    There also is a FREE third party application for MCE to allow for web based scheduling of recordings. There are many other FREE third party applications availible to do things such as edit hte DVR-MS files to get rid of commercials and convert the video for archiving or file storage. Even newer versions of Nero support converting the recorded content in MCE to DVD.

    Reply
  • gimper48 - Thursday, September 16, 2004 - link

    oops it would help if I read. Ok I know it is sff where did they find it for that price? Peace,
    Reply
  • gimper48 - Thursday, September 16, 2004 - link

    where do you find that case. IS is a mid-tower? Reply
  • evelhakur - Thursday, September 16, 2004 - link

    Hey what about Remote Controllers on each of the systems? Who's works better/worse? I need to sit back on the couch with the remote, I don't want to fool around with the mouse (Tivo's remote works wonderfully).

    Also, if you go with the WinTV Go cards you don't get a remote! Which 3rd party remote control will substitute?

    George
    Reply

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