21 February 2008

Mythbox: Software

I remember when I initially considered building a media PC, I had thought that I would base it on Mediaportal. Mediaportal runs on Windows and does pretty much all that you'd want a media center application to do. The only problem with it is that it crashes like hell for me there - I don't want to take the risk for the main TV.

GB-PVR, also for Windows is another very similar, though mush lighter weight contender. I strongly considered GB-PVR, partly for its ability to run on Windows 2000. Plus, it's fairly easy to set up and stable.

Windows Media Center is the other oft-used option. However the limitations here are artificial and infuriating. For example, the way Media Center restricts you to two tuners or that it doesn't support DVB-S natively, nor does it support any HD options outside of the US. This somehow seems unacceptable for such a product. On the plus side, Media Center has probably the best user interface of the bunch.

This leaves MythTV, the relatively stable (if impossibly difficult to configure) usually Linux based DVR software. MythTV sure has the features and it has the advantage of being itself completely free along with the operating system on which it usually runs. I chose mythbuntu as my flavour of choice. Given that cost is my primary driver for this mythbox, I felt that MythTV presented the only real option (all others discussed would have required a Windows license - and product activation on a DVR. That sure doesn't feel right.)

The pros and cons:


+ Lots of features
+ Itself free and open source
- Requires a Windows license
- A little crash happy


+ Stable and snappy
+ Nice and lightweight
+ Able to run on Windows 2000
- Requires a Windows license

Windows Media Center

+ Nice, intuitive user interface
+ Relatively easy to set up
+ Media extenders available
- Requires a Windows license, Windows Vista to get newest version
- Stupid tuner number limitations
- Lack of DVB compatibility


+ Features galore
+ Highly configurable
+ Relatively stable
+ Completely free
+ Media extenders easy to build or buy
- Hellishly difficult to configure
- Notoriously bad support and documentation

MythTV's definitely got what I need, I'm just hoping I'm up to the set-up task.