MythTV or TiVo?
January 4, 2005 7:52 PM   Subscribe

My long-out-of-warranty TiVo just died. Do I go MythTV or TiVo? [mi]
posted by eschatfische to Technology (16 answers total)
Go with TiVo. Get a refurbished TiVo from (if available) for like $50ish.
posted by riffola at 7:56 PM on January 4, 2005

Response by poster: Yep, I'm aware of this previous AskMe article, but it doesn't answer my question. I also found this helpful comparison guide, but it doesn't answer a few questions I have about general usability.

Background: My 4-year-old Series 1 TiVo bit the dust while I was away for Christmas. It still records video, but the audio is shot. After trying different outputs and setups, I finally traced the problem to a failed voltage regulator, which given the age of my TiVo and the effort involved really isn't worth fixing.

Now, I've been building PCs since the 80's, and I've installed and used not just Windows but also Linux, OS/2, Solaris, and my latest love, my PowerBook. I'm not afraid of the time it would take to set up a MythTV box -- I realize it's a mess of different Linux apps with different dependencies, and that's fine. I'm willing to invest a weekend or two into getting it working, and I even think it'd make a fun project.

Problem is, it'll be more expensive for me to set up than a new TiVo. It looks like an Antec Aria case, an Athlon nForce2 mATX board, an Athlon 2x00+, HSF, the appropriate RAM, a DVD drive, a Hauppage PVR-350 and a 300 gig hard drive will cost about $675. On the other hand, a 40-hour TiVo with a lifetime subscription costs $378 after rebate, and hacking it with that 300 gig drive will bring it to $528, $150 less.

I can do most of the cool "extra" features -- DVD burning, music playing, etc -- quite nicely with my PowerBook, so those don't make it worth the extra money in and of itself. Nor does burning shows to DVD, something I can't imagine doing.

Here's what I want:

1) Quiet. My TiVo's rather quiet, and it's in the room where I sleep. Will the Antec case be louder? If not, are there any home theater cases which will be as quiet as the TiVo?
2) Recovery. If there's a power outage, will everything restart without me having to log in and run commands?
3) Reliability. Does the application ever quit for no reason? Or become unresponsive? The TiVo's fairly laggy, but it's bulletproof. I don't want to have to go groping for a keyboard/mouse and screw around in X when I just want to watch TV.
4) Style / ergonomics. Assume I'll use the remote from my dead TiVo. Does the MythTV interface require more button presses than the TiVo for the same functions? Is it responsive or laggy?
5) Wishlists. Can MythTV store an arbitrary title or director's name -- something not in the listings currently -- and record it when it comes up? It looks like this feature is way behind.
6) Adjustable fast forward/rewind. Are there multiple speeds like TiVo?

I'm concerned about TiVo's announcement about the "fast forward ads," and I'm also concerned that they're not supporting TiVo-to-Go on the Mac right out of the box. That's what got me thinking about Myth. But I'm also concerned that MythTV will be glitchy in day-to-day operation and will bug the hell out of me when I'm used to the comparatively trouble-free nature of my Mac, or pre-failure TiVo, especially if it's more expensive. I don't mind setting something up with a CLI, but I don't want to see it when I flop on my couch, if you know what I mean.

I'm going to do something real soon now, given I'm currently sans TiVo. Push me off the fence. Thanks!
posted by eschatfische at 7:57 PM on January 4, 2005

The problem is the Antec Aria case is not really that great. As seen in the SPCR review the PSU gets loud when it's been on for a while.
posted by riffola at 8:03 PM on January 4, 2005

If you're going linux, consider VDR. I find it PERFECT as a satellite receiver software, and the timeshifting features are sweet. Plus the plugins list is longer than my arm.
posted by shepd at 8:25 PM on January 4, 2005

Define "died". If it's just a hard drive problem (which is likely the only thing that will go wrong), you can either run Gibson's Spinrite on it, or replace the drive entirely.
posted by Caviar at 9:08 PM on January 4, 2005

Ooh, sorry - missed the thing about the failed voltage regulator. Nevermind.
posted by Caviar at 9:09 PM on January 4, 2005

I'm going to do something real soon now

If you do MythTV, "real soon" is a requirement anyway since there are less than 6 months left 'til it becomes illegal to build one in the U.S.

You mentioned the PowerBook. Have you considered one of these as another option?
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 9:34 PM on January 4, 2005

illegal to build a MythTV in the US??? What's up with that?.

As it happens, I'm wrestling with making a PVR/entertainment PC with my old computer right now. Sadly, the infernal ATI AIW card makes this difficult in Linux.
posted by Goofyy at 11:59 PM on January 4, 2005

My hubby built us a MythTV box since TiVo isn't available in Australia. From my perspective - uninformed, never-used-a-TiVo before end user - it's a DREAM. Every now and then it crashes and you just restart it (via the remote control), and five seconds later it's working again. Our digital tuner card came with a pretty decent remote and the UI isn't *too* bad. (We've tried a few different themes and done some custom tweaking as a result.) You miss out on some of the fun stuff of TiVo, like it recommending shows for you, but personally we've got so much stuff we *want* to watch that we'd never get to extra random crap anyway. Our biggest problem is finding nicely formatted guide information, since it's all copyrighted down here and there's no nice way to get it without paying a lot. My guess is that if you've used a TiVo before, MythTV would probably be a step down in terms of user experience, but if you like to tinker that might make up for it. Some of the extra MythTV modules are neat too, like reading RSS feeds and weather information.
posted by web-goddess at 12:12 AM on January 5, 2005

This might be a better question for Ask PVRblog.
posted by mmascolino at 7:22 AM on January 5, 2005

Response by poster: shepd: I have analog cable, not satellite, so I don't think VDR is what I'm looking for.

nakedcodemonkey: the TiVo's there so I can record things while I'm not around my place -- and when I leave, I often take the PowerBook. An attachment for the PowerBook doesn't really accomplish much if the PowerBook's not near my cable when there's something I want to record. Also, how on earth is building a MythTV box going to be illegal?

riffola: I got my Series 1 as a refurb man moons ago, so I'm all about the refurbs. Still, the new 40-hour units for $79 on Amazon after rebate look like a better buy than the older refurbs (which are ultimately only about ten bucks less).

Anyway, thanks all, I'm just going to get one of those Amazon TiVos. After reading the Myth dev and user lists, and seeing your comment, web-goddess, I'm not convinced that Myth is ready for hassle-free day-to-day operation ("every now and then it crashes" isn't what I want). When it gets to be a bit more stable, I'll give it another look.
posted by eschatfische at 7:34 AM on January 5, 2005

Also, how on earth is building a MythTV box going to be illegal?

There is continuing talk in the US of making it illegal to fast-forward through a TV program's commercials. I highly doubt MythTV will add TV commercial detection and anti-skip to an open source software, hence, it would become illegal in the US.

Not that that should stop you anyways.
posted by shepd at 9:24 AM on January 5, 2005

There is continuing talk in the US of making it illegal to fast-forward through a TV program's commercials.

I believe the problem was with the 30-second skip feature, which they already took out. Conventional fast forwarding will likely always be legal, thanks to the sensibility of the Sony v. Universal decision.

I think you should go with the TiVo. Myth boxes are a pain to set up, and need occasional reboots. TiVo just works. Plus, with PVR's you're often running into trouble with consistent, accurate schedules available for free. If you already like your TiVo and all its functionality, you should probably stick with it.

Personally, I would set up my computer to either d/l shows with the commercials already ripped, or just get a tuner card and do it myself, then stream them to an X-BOX media player. But then, I have an illogical hatred of commercial products that gain cult-like, faddish loyalty (see: iPod).
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 9:49 AM on January 5, 2005

Actually, MythTV might well be illegal for failing to respect the "broadcast flag," which I believe became a requirement on Jan 1.

Of course, since it's open source and hosted Out There, it would be hard to do much about it.
posted by adamrice at 11:02 AM on January 5, 2005

I've bought a few TiVos on eBay. My rule of thumb is $300 for the lifetime subscription and not more than $1/hour of recording space. I bought a 180 hour TiVo for $447 including shipping almost a year ago.
posted by whtsherbkt at 11:58 AM on January 5, 2005

I'm amazed that there's 40 hours of stuff worth recording. Not trying to sound snarky, and I love pop culture, but even with cable I don't see a whole lot of exciting stuff in any given week.
posted by mecran01 at 1:27 PM on January 5, 2005

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