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In the tradeoff between cost and performance in an HD-capable MythTV box, what is the most important to you?
Keep the cost down. If you need to use older hardware to do that, fine, as long as it can play back 1080p and transcode quickly. 97%  97%  [ 37 ]
Keep the hardware new. If the cost goes up, that's fine, as long as it's the latest and greatest. 3%  3%  [ 1 ]
Total votes : 38

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PostPosted: Fri Feb 08, 2008 3:22 pm 
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I get conflicting requests from people regarding systems like Dragon. Some people want the price to be cheaper, which is usually only possible when using older hardware, and some people want newer hardware, which raises the price. Hence, this poll. Please answer whether you build your own systems or whether you buy them pre-assembled. I want to give people what they want, and since people want conflicting things, I need more data :) Thanks!

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PostPosted: Fri Feb 08, 2008 4:51 pm 
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Human wrote:
Please answer whether you build your own systems or whether you buy them pre-assembled.


I roll my own. :D

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PostPosted: Fri Feb 08, 2008 5:47 pm 
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The hardware doesn't need to be the latest, greatest as long as it does HD. However HDD space can never be enough...

Small form factor and silence for FEs is higher concern to me. A SFF, silent, HD capable, maybe in a barebones offering would be the holy grail.


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PostPosted: Fri Feb 08, 2008 7:07 pm 
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I've built 6 Mythboxes now, and they were all ebay IBM office castoffs.
3.2 ghz Pentium 4s with your choice of large sata drive works fine. A lot of us are hobbiests who like to fool with new stuff, but most Mythboxes get put to work for the family members, and keeping it economical is more important.
I would further note that 3.2 ghz machines are marching down to the $150 level on ebay these days..... :lol:


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PostPosted: Fri Feb 08, 2008 7:20 pm 
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I don't mind throwing some money at specific areas, like the case, if it's important to me. Overall, it's a utility appliance -- a toaster. I like it to toast well and look pretty in my kitchen. Any more is overkill.

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PostPosted: Fri Feb 08, 2008 7:53 pm 
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I say "appliance" but that doesn't necessarily mean using "old" hardware just whatever is the most cost effective and readily available at the time. In the end all that matters is that it has enough horsepower to the job and isn't a maintenance headache.


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PostPosted: Fri Feb 08, 2008 8:15 pm 
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Thanks, everyone! Wow, that's pretty definitive. I thought there would at least be some people who wanted cutting-edge hardware based on the inquiries I've been getting. Maybe they were all from competitors who were trying to push me in the wrong direction ;)

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PostPosted: Fri Feb 08, 2008 9:01 pm 
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Location: Uniontown, PA
During the course of building my two HD frontend boxes, I've learned:

QUIET IS Important, and EXPENSIVE.

CPU speed isn't that important anymore. As mentioned, as long as there's enough power to playback HD, and we keep the 'Appliance' thought in mind, hardware costs are minimal.

What adds cost?

1: Sleek cases. My two 'user systems' have the HT-1100, and the GMC AVC-S7 as the cases. They look REALLY, REALLY nice, but those cases cost MORE than ALL of the other components installed in them. They look and function great, but they're still noisy,compared to a $50 DVD player. :(

2: Unneeded memory or CPU speed. Unless you want to run transcodes all day, or make a significant Folding@Home contribution, it's unnecessary.

Human:

In terms of developing systems for sale, I'd say focus on three levels.

Good: Works; enough speed; some noise.

Better: FAST, noisy, but FAST. Can add more tuners, storage. This could/would become a 'desktop' system, but that's something that I'm NOT interested in. Your sales history may dictate otherwise.

Best: Works; Silent.

Storage: Min of 1 TB in any system.

The Better system could become a backend box for folks that realize how good this MythTV stuff is... ;)

They could put the Good systems in the Den, Kitchen, Garage, etc.

The Best system should end up in the Living Room or Bedroom.

I've build my own systems, only because I'm capable of doing that, and I do get some joy from the process. I believe that folks wanting a true appliance would shop for a 'box' that meets their needs and cost.

What throws them is that you have to add in the cost of your time and support. A Dell is $400, but that's just a PC with Windows on it. A Dragon has your blood sweat and tears in it, but folks only see a PC with Free software on it, so it should cost less to them. That's the battle. :(

I'm rambling on...so I'll stop for now. :wink:


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PostPosted: Fri Feb 08, 2008 9:19 pm 
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I want the best possible picture in the quietest package. I build my own.

[old fart rambling]I'm a cheap SOB so the first thing I look at is how little I have to pay to get the job done. I still think my M2NPV-VM/3800+ frontends are the cat's meow given the price. I do spend a little more for a case if it's going to be in the open, don't necessarily want them looking like a PC.

Where I tend to spend extra money is on the quietest parts possible (staying within the cheap SOB range). I don't want to hear the dang computer, I want to hear the media I'm watching. And if I'm not watching any media, I don't want to hear anything.[/old fart rambling]

Human, can you get the prices on those TB drives to come down?? :wink:


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PostPosted: Sat Feb 09, 2008 1:09 am 
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Oh yeah, quiet too. On the other hand this doesn't need to mean $$$. The chief components that need attention for quieting are:

    Case - steel and sturdy to minimize vibration. Antec makes some suitable ones in the Solo/NSK series, they look good and they're fairly reasonably priced. These come with features like soft mounting for drives and often a good quiet power supply. Say $100 with a powersupply. :-)

    Power supply - something quiet and efficient. Seasonic, Enermax, Antec, ... all make good ones at a decent price.

    Case fans - One or two quiet 120mm fans, good ones like the Nexus or Sony FDB cost a bit more but still under $20 each.

    CPU HSF - See the list of recommendation at SilentPCReview. Many of these are very reasonably priced. Say something from Arctic Cooling at under $25.

    Motherboard heatsink - Tear off any fans and put on something like one of the little Zalman Northbridge HSs (under $10) or the slightly pricier Thermalright HR series.

    Silent video card - Pick something without a fan, these tend to be less expensive boards anyway. Say $20-$40 retail.

Total delta for quiet parts here versus the absolute cheapest available is probably less than $120 and certainly less than $150.


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PostPosted: Sat Feb 09, 2008 8:10 pm 
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I'd like to add a "me too" to what everyone else is saying about I want the cheapest hardware that does the job. I think I may be more interested than others in splitting the front end from the back. I don't care what the back end looks like or sounds like if I can lock it in the basement. I want a sweet front end though...

Ultimately I'd like to see a dedicated hardware front end. Something that runs a myth front-end and even Linux off a flash drive, or other EEPROM; It should be otherwise diskless. The processor should have enough horsepower to decode HD video, but it would mostly be chosen for it's thermal properties. It should not need its fan to run at all when idle, and only whisper when decoding. (not needing a fan even when decoding would be the Holy Grail of front-ends. It should be very small too - like an AppleTV. I could buy anything under $400; but lower cost would make for less begging with the wife.

I think this dream system would require a complete custom-job from someone like ASUS, (Think the EeePC of home media.) But until they're ready to build it and give you a distributor deal, the question is how close can we come to that? I don't think the choice/brand of components matters as much as the features/benefits STABILITY and cost as the end result.


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PostPosted: Sat Feb 09, 2008 9:34 pm 
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The really nice thing about Myth/Linux, as opposed to Media Center / Windows, is that with Myth/Linux, the target doesn't change. If you can build a machine today that performs adequately, you don't have to upgrade the CPU, Video and RAM next year to do the same job.
3 years from now, MythTV will playback HD just fine on an AMD 3200 chip, 1 GB RAM, and an nVidia 6200. With Vista/WMC, you've got to have the latest stuff.
Consequently, the cost of a capable HD Myth box goes down, down, down. Now you can put money into quieter components, smaller form factors, etc. Dual cores would be nice, to allow easier transcoding, and maybe as MythTV evolves, you can do things like RIP/Burn DVDs while you're watching shows. Maybe then, you'd need more power. But right now, the performance target is fixed, and the prices therefore will just keep getting cheaper.
Of course, the reference platform must consist of parts that you can actually BUY. But I don't see speed as being the issue here.

I observed this phenomenon on my Mom's laptop over Christmas. She sent it to me because it wouldn't boot any more. It was an Acer XP laptop, 512 MB RAM, 1.5Ghz or so. I did the Alt+F10 trick to re-format as a factory install. The thing ran great. Then I added SP2, dozens of additional updates and fixes, antivirus, etc... 12 hrs and a dozen reboots later, it was performing like a fat old dog with 3 legs. I added 1GB RAM and it's better, but still not as quick as it was before the updates!

So anyway, I fully expect that my Dragon 1.1 homebrew will be running MythTV just fine, 5 years from now.


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PostPosted: Sun Feb 10, 2008 4:51 am 
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thornsoft wrote:
The really nice thing about Myth/Linux, as opposed to Media Center / Windows, is that with Myth/Linux, the target doesn't change. If you can build a machine today that performs adequately, you don't have to upgrade the CPU, Video and RAM next year to do the same job.


Yes, and no. Yes if you never upgrade the version of MythTV on it, but over time more and more features will slowly creep into MythTV, and slightly increase the required hardware to run it on.

This is a lot slower than the Microsoft (or Apple) moving target, though.

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PostPosted: Sun Feb 10, 2008 10:08 pm 
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Hi,
When it comes to "old farts" I think I might fit in that category so my comments may have a different perspective. :)

I think one needs to determine what the usage will be for the system. Mine is a basic FE/BE Dell GX1 600 mhz, 384mem PVR-350 with currently 300 gig drive. They don't seem to make 1Tb in ide but that would be the only change, adding drive space. This box has served the family since R4V (I forget) and my e-Machine had died with the capacitor eruptions.

With each upgrade, it actually gets quicker and more stable as Cecil and his team tweak the performance to be ever better. As for stable I refer to an occasional frontend premature exit. So I have to push the power button on the remote to restart the FE, yawn.

Mainly we watch recordings of shows for the time slip that is needed in our busy day to day living structure. Making the 350 FM radio functional was a recent add on which was an immediate hit with the wife! The music has always been very popular with us along with the slide show of the continually growing "family" picture collection.

What is an interesting side effect, is I can record a hd show from our local PBS station using the HomeRun tuner box, archive it into a dvd iso and then play it through the 350 card. Granted it is not on a 100 inch screen and not 1080i but still looks very nice! In my younger years, we would watch WDAY out of Fargo on a 21 inch black & white from 50 miles away (as the crow flies). Cable hadn't been invented yet.

That of course is not my only machine, however it is the main one the family uses off and on through out the day. My main "research" machine (Compaq SFF 2.2 ghz, 512mem, does all of my computing requirements in addition to the KM functions. It also does the second stream digital very nicely for the kids cartoons.

For true hd, I run a Compaq 3ghz, 512mem, GF 7600, DVI, (no optical audio) into a GateWay tv/monitor. which works well. To bad there isn't much decent content to view excepting PBS.

I have also found that KM will run very nicely on hardware that can't even support Edubuntu 7.10!

So bottom line I think, is what do the customers "think" they want? Just a toaster that does hd, makes no noise, uses no electricity, and is free? Maybe a practical offer might be a beginners box that could be at a suitable price that would allow them to enter the KnoppMyth world to truly evaluate if it is the tool they are looking for in their future. Analog is still here until Feb 17, 2009, the FCC is accepting requests for the OTA set top tuners which would also be compatible with a KM machine as they are to be compatible with the "older" analog tv's. That might be a WalMart $199 green machine, just add a 350 tuner card, install KM, done.

Thanks & have a great day!
Mike


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PostPosted: Mon Feb 11, 2008 3:47 pm 
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Thanks very much to everyone who has replied and/or voted so far! This is a pretty incredible result, and it definitely helps me decide what to do when the parts for Dragon 2.0 cease to be available. This won't be for quite a while, thankfully, with the notable exception of the Chaintech AV-710, which has been discontinued. (I can still make Dragons, though, because I stocked up :) )

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